For as long as I can remember, both the Jewish community and the disability community have been major parts of my life. More accurately, the Jewish disability community has been instrumental in not only my upbringing, but in developing my passion for Jewish inclusion.
My 18 Under 18 project centered around improving inclusion and accessibility in synagogues and creating a curriculum around disabilities, accessibility, inclusion, and ableism. While I made progress on this goal during my time as an honoree, I was less able to implement anything as my first year of college was interrupted by the pandemic. At that time, I had begun building a relationship with my University’s Hillel and Chabad and connecting with the Jewish community in Pittsburgh.
While serving as a campus engagement intern (CEI) with Hillel in the 2020-2021 remote school year, I began to notice something: our campus Hillel was not as accessible as it could be. I knew that my personal experiences in the disability world gave me a unique perspective on this issue and allowed me to see areas for improvement that those who were less familiar might not have even noticed.
I brought my concerns to our Hillel director, Kari Semel, and she and I have been working together with the entire Hillel ever since. Currently, I work with Hillel as a Disability, Accessibility and Inclusion Liaison. This role encompasses multiple responsibilities, some of which include: educational presentations to leadership on disability, finding and creating solutions where we see areas of inaccessibility, and adapting our Hillel both in physical space and attitude to be a more inclusive space for all.
In all my work I have done with Hillel, my 18 Under 18 experience has inspired me. I think of the young people I met in my cohort, all leading impactful change in our communities. Our cohort experience taught us all to step up, take action, and make a difference wherever we can. Together we learned to take our passions and change the world, and that is truly an experience I will never forget.
About the Author: Randi is a Junior at the University of Pittsburgh studying speech and hearing sciences, linguistics, and American Sign Language. There, she serves as the secretary for the university’s Best Buddies club (fostering friendships with individuals of all abilities), mental health chair for Rho Psi Eta academic sorority, and works with the campus Hillel JUC. She is an alum of 18 Under 18 in the 2019 cohort and has continued her Jewish involvement on campus through both Hillel and Chabad.