Resolve to Increase Inclusion in 2015

Written by Lisa Friedman, Matan’s Manager of Social Media and Alumni Networks

The word New Year's resolution written on the blackboard with blank notesTo be honest, I’m not usually one for resolutions. I think they tend to become wishful thinking pretty quickly. Maybe my reticence toward resolutions is because New Year’s feels a little redundant to me. After all, as Jews, we’ve already welcomed our new year, and the celebration of Rosh Hashanah followed a month of significant reflection and introspection.

And yet, there is certainly a valuable opportunity to think deeply about what one has accomplished in the secular year that has passed while looking ahead with renewed commitment and optimism. This is the kind of goal-setting that can make our resolutions stick; inclusion is just too important for wishful thinking.

Inclusion Resolutions for 2015

Practice what you preach:

We must each lead by example. Talking the talk of inclusion is good, but if we don’t also walk the walk, our great intentions are for naught.

Keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible:

Inclusion is most successful when committed advocates push the boundaries of what others think is possible. Continue to speak out, make waves and create new opportunities.

Expand your networks:

Find the stakeholders who care about inclusion as deeply as you do. Set goals together. The power of collaboration exponentially magnifies the potential of what any one of us might otherwise accomplish alone.

 

In a few short weeks there will be an increased buzz in the Jewish Disability World. February first will mark the start of the seventh annual Jewish Disability Awareness Month; affectionately known by those who love acronyms as JDAM. It can be a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness about our various organizations and within ouJewish Disability Awareness Monthr synagogues while highlighting the great resources and opportunities that already exist within our communities. Hopefully it also leads to the opening of new doors that were once closed.

But before the hoopla and the congratulatory pats on the back for great programs and events, I want to urge you to maintain focus and remember that in and of itself, JDAM is NOT inclusion. No one program is inclusion. Inclusion is a mindset. Inclusion is a way of thinking. It is how we behave and treat one another. It is explained perfectly in this quote from the American Camping Association:

We must understand that inclusion is first and foremost a philosophy. It is a mindset and a belief that everyone has value and something to contribute. It is a willingness to see the ability in everyone and match skill with challenge. It is an understanding that what our programs really provide at their heart is the opportunity to build relationships, learn who we are, and develop skills. It is being committed to the process of making our programs accessible — not only in the physical sense, but also by ensuring that each person’s participation is meaningful….Once we understand that inclusion is not a place, a program, or a time-limited opportunity, and that it is a state of being and a way of operating that says “all are welcome,” we can overcome the practical barriers of resources, knowledge, and accessible facilities.

I challenge us to make living inclusively our goal, both within and beyond our Jewish organizations, and pray that this is a resolution we can all really keep.