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Jewish Disability Awareness Month for Congregations

"Good intentions alone not accompanied by action are without value, as it is the action which makes the intentions so profound." —Chasidic Master Yehudi HaKadosh

Jewish Disability Awareness Month, universally recognized by the Jewish community in February, is a unified initiative to raise awareness and support efforts to foster inclusion of people with disabilities and their families in Jewish communities worldwide.

During Jewish Disability Awareness Month (and beyond!) you can:

• Use the Jewish Disability Awareness Month logo on your website and on all printed materials during February. You can obtain the logo by contacting creator Shelley Christensen.

• Dedicate a Shabbat worship service to inclusion and the contributions of children and adults who have disabilities.

• Host or participate in a community-wide disability awareness event, such as the showing of Mary and Max, Praying with Lior, or Autism the Musical.

• Give a presentation at your congregation's February board meeting sharing stories about students with special needs and how inclusion benefits all students.

• Host an art exhibit or musical performance by an artist who has a disability.

• Do an environmental scan of your building, looking at accessibility of the sanctuary, bimah, education areas, parking and restrooms.

• Have religious school students createmezuzotto be placed at the appropriate height for people who use wheelchairs, and mark the occasion with a special ceremony.

• Invite a disability specialist, parent, or person with a disability to give ad'var Torahon a disability-related topic.

• Focus Torah study on text about Jewish values for inclusion.

• Collaborate with other organizations in the community to host a conference presenting a variety of workshops to educate Jewish professionals and community members about aspects of living with disability.

• Create a pamphlet or online resource about inclusion etiquette with ideas about how to relate to someone with a disability.

• Because children and teens with disabilities are often targets for bullying, use Jewish Disability Awareness Month as an opportunity to address the issue of bullying with youth group members.

• Set the expectation that inclusion is part of the congregational culture and formalize it by starting an inclusion or access committee in February. Create the mission statement in March, do an assessment of all areas of the congregation throughout the spring and early summer, and envision your inclusive congregation and write a strategic plan to start the new year.

• Above all, share your stories of success, the fruits of your work that give people hope that they can belong.