By Donna Meltzer, NACDD CEO
Each year in February, the Jewish community comes together to focus on JDAIM – Jewish Disability and Inclusion Month. In past years, this month has brought together Jewish people from across the country to Washington D.C. to learn together, share their experiences, needs and concerns for themselves or loved ones with disabilities. This event happens in Washington, DC because it involves visits to Capitol Hill. This year will need to be different with events taking place virtually. While I will miss being in person with many friends and colleagues this year, being virtual has allowed the Jewish Federation of North American (JFNA), the sponsor of JDAIM to spread out its events and activities across the entire month of February. I enjoyed attending several of the wonderful opportunities to learn more about how Jewish organizations and entities are working toward full inclusion. I also look forward to presenting on NACDD’s advocacy agenda and my personal experiences as an advocate on Monday evening February 22 along with several of my colleagues in the disability community. During the Monday evening presentation, I will also be joined by Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA).
On a personal level I have been involved in working to make Jewish institutions including synagogues, camps, youth groups, and other community events, inclusive and accessible for all. I have served as a chair of my synagogue’s inclusion committee, organized speakers for previous JDAIM celebrations, and continue to work across our local region and nationally to help our teen leadership programs be more welcoming and inclusive of all.
As we work across our country to address intersectionality and disability, my efforts in the Jewish community have never felt more urgent. With the rise of anti-Semitism in our nation and around the world, I know that I need to do more to speak up against injustice and to work toward the Jewish goal of Tikkun Olam – repairing the world. It is important that we work to make all aspects of our American society more inclusive for Jews of our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities. Yes – Jewish people also come in all colors and backgrounds!
I, and the leadership of NACDD are proud to work with JFNA as we come together to harness the collective power of the disability community and work hand in hand to break down barriers that exclude people with disabilities from being included in important aspects of life such as participating in faith communities. I hope you will join me in celebrating Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month and work together with NACDD to bring people of all faiths together to honor our diversity and right to be fully included in aspects of society.