(JNS.org) As Jewish communities across North America celebrate Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month in February, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) is receiving a $375,000, three-year grant from the Ruderman Family Foundation for the purpose of making Conservative Jewish communities more inclusive for people with disabilities.
Sixteen USCJ-affiliated congregations had participated in the 2014-15 Ruderman Inclusion Action Community initiative. As a result of the newly announced three-year grant, the Ruderman-USCJ partnership will now support up to 20 congregations demonstrating interest and readiness on the disability inclusion issue. USCJ will use the funds to consult with affiliated congregations and help them build plans for how to make all aspects of congregational life more welcoming to people with disabilities, such in education programs, prayer services, social activities, and physical spaces like the entryway to the bimah (the raised area where the Torah is read).
“This past year, USCJ’s partnership with the Ruderman Family Foundation has shown that a concerted effort such as this one can make inclusion a spiritual and programmatic reality,” USCJ CEO Rabbi Steve Wernick said in a statement. “The Hebrew word for inclusion, hachlala, is related to vayachulu, the word used to signify the completion of creation. In the same way that creation was not complete until Shabbat was included, our kehillot (local Jewish communal structures) are not complete until all people are included.”
“Disability inclusion is an issue not just confined to one movement or denomination, it’s an issue that has no borders and we see great importance in working with every movement inside Jewish life,” said Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation.