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It’s February – Let’s Talk!

Meredith Polsky

It is only when we work together that we will truly see our communities become fully inclusive; MatanDisability is common; inclusion, less so. As Jews, we have an obligation to all of our people, regardless of ability. There has been increased attention to this issue in recent years, but there is still much work to be done. February is Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), a time when Jewish organizations worldwide focus their efforts and work to meet more of our obligations towards Jews with disabilities.

For over 15 years, Matan has been changing the face of Jewish education for students with disabilities. Matan spent its first 10 years focused on direct service with schools and families; since 2010, we have expanded the conversation outward. Through our flagship program, The Matan Institute, we focus on professional development and mentorship of current and future Jewish leaders and educators, in conversation with the community of Jews with disabilities. We invite you to be part of this conversation. Your voice and your work are needed.

In honor of JewiMatan Disability Acceptance and Inclusion Pledge imagesh Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month we are excited to launch Matan’s Jewish Disability Acceptance and Inclusion Pledge. If you teach or educate (most Jews do in some capacity!), we ask you to sign the pledge to make acceptance and inclusion an integral part of your Jewish practice. The ongoing commitment to access and inclusion requires conversation, collaboration, and work.

Matan’s Jewish Disability Acceptance and Inclusion Pledge:

I acknowledge that ability, disability and humanity coexist, and I pledge to see my students as they are without downplaying either. I will not look past their disabilities; I will instead seek to understand how their disabilities affect their life, learning and social experiences. I will not overlook their abilities; I will instead actively seek out their abilities and learn to teach them effectively. I will not overlook the humanity of my students; I will remember that they have individual interests and a perspective of their own and that they were each created b’tzelem Elohim – in the image of God.

Throughout the month of February (and beyond!), Matan’s voice around issues of disability inclusion will be strong. We will continue to bring you weekly divrei torah (on Wednesdays) that link the theme of inclusion to the parsha. We will also be sharing some personal stories and highlighting practical inclusion strategies that we have found to be effective. We hope that you will subscribe to our blog updates so that you don’t miss any. Another way to connect with us is to like us on Facebook.

Finally, we encourage you to follow us on Twitter @Mataninc. This month we are launching our newest initiative, the Matan Twitter Chat (#MatanChat). On Thursday, February 18th at 1:00pm EST, we will be holding our first monthly Twitter chat on best practices in inclusive Jewish education. About #Matanchat. We hope you will join us; we look forward to your voice.

However you choose to recognize Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month, we look forward to supporting your efforts and being a part of your conversations. In the end, whether it’s February or any other month of the year, it is only when we work together that we will truly see our communities become fully inclusive.

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