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disability inclusion

Each February, we join to advocate for inclusion of people with disabilities and mental health conditions to be active, engaged participants in Jewish life.

For some children, the seder means delicious jellied candies and afikoman hunts. For others it can mean terrifying public reading and unbearable amounts of sitting still at the table. And for those disabilities – whether psychological, developmental or language-based – it’s clear this night is different from all other nights. But can somebody slow down and please explain why?

At a dreidel-making workshop, Jeremy’s friends think that he is molding a secret code on his clay dreidel. However, they soon find out that he is really making a special gift: a dreidel with Braille letters on it for his father, who is blind.

As my recovery continues, I often reflect on how I managed to find the strength--the resilience--to rebuild my life. I believe the answer lies in three interventions, each informed by Judaism: directed prayer on my behalf, attentive visits, and practical support.

Gloria Lenhoff can sing in thirty languages. She has performed operatic arias and classical lieder with orchestras and chamber groups throughout the world. She has participated in High Holiday choirs and served as guest cantor or assistant cantor at synagogues in four states. But Gloria’s dazzling musical accomplishments do not stop her parents from worrying about her future.

"Jews with disabilities are not invisible anymore," emphasizes Becca Hornstein, a consultant on disability and family-related issues and executive director of the Council for Jews with Special Needs. Twenty-six years ago, she began searching for religious education for her nine-year-old son who has autism and was told, "We're not aware of Jews with disabilities." At the time, the fledging special education program she soon helped launch at Temple Chai, Phoenix, Arizona instructed four students; today, 12% of the congregation's religious school children have a special need, and the temple is there to help.

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