Jewish Disability Awareness Month (JDAM) is a national movement
held each February to raise awareness and promote meaningful inclusion of
people with disabilities and their families in all aspects of Jewish
life. The need for education about individuals living with
disabilities is a growing issue in society.
Whether we know someone personally who has special needs or meet them at
the grocery store, it is a certainty that at some point in our lives we will
intersect and may not always be prepared to be as kind, respectful, and
supportive as we should.
Keshet is taking the lead on this issue to the benefit of the
entire Chicago Jewish Community by offering a wide variety of educational,
vocational, and recreational programs for children and young adults with
special needs. Keshet is a non-profit
organization working within the framework of Jewish values. This February we
are offering tools and resources for the community to participate in Jewish
Disabilities Month through The
Leventhal Keshet Professional Development Center—an extension of Keshet's
commitment to serving individuals with developmental disabilities.
on-site assistance and consultation, the Leventhal Keshet Professional
Development Center provides tools that cater to individuals with developmental
and intellectual disabilities as well as provides their caretakers with an
array of support. The Leventhal Keshet Professional Development Center has
received prominence and distinction for its staff training and professional
development, offering workshops, and speaking engagements both locally and
nationally. In 2011, Abbie Weisberg,
CEO/Executive Director spoke at the Global Autism Conference in Jerusalem
leading to Keshet’s role in creating programs and offering hope for individuals
with special needs around the world.
response to the growing demand for educational materials on the subject of
special needs, The Leventhal Keshet Professional Development Center has created
a resource guide specifically targeted for Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month that
includes Abilities Awareness activities for many age levels, respectful
language examples, parent testimonials, samples of sermons for clergy, and more.
the center, the Keshet staff created a multi-tiered plan to address a wide
population throughout the month of February.
Reaching out across all streams of Judaism, places of worship have been
asked to participate by:
- Sharing a personal story about
an individual with special needs with the congregation
Abilities Awareness on one Shabbat during February
- Leading an Abilities Awareness
activity at their place of worship
- Advertising information to their
fellow congregants about abilities awareness and “people first” language
Keshet Leventhal Professional Development Center speaker to address their
membership on Abilities Awareness
House, (home-based communities that provide a meaningful Jewish experience)
will partner with Keshet by hosting an event that will be cross promoted with
Mishkan (a movement based on Jewish inclusion connecting people through prayer,
study, and community building) on Feb. 11 from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p,m. The program compliments
Moishe House’s current series, "Privilege,
Oppression, and Judaism." By
inviting representatives from Keshet, Moishe House will have an opportunity to
start the conversation about disabilities within the Jewish community.
Leventhal Keshet Professional Center has also scheduled speaking
engagements with youth groups like BBYO where more than100 teens are expected to
attend and NFTY, which will be doing their part by following Keshet's Jewish
Disabilities Awareness Month social media campaign.
is honored to lead the charge for Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month by
reaching out across the breadth of the Jewish community in Chicago, serving as the
central address for individuals with special needs. At Keshet, we see abilities in those with
disabilities. We hope that you will too.
Levin-Abir is the vice president of Strategic Development at Keshet, a partner in serving our community, supported by the JUF/Jewish Federation
of Metropolitan Chicago.