The first ever Jewish Leadership Institute on Disability and Inclusion, in partnership with the Ruderman Family Foundation, was held in Baltimore this week. Participants included Jewish communal services professionals and lay leaders from 13 states and Ontario, Canada. The Institute centered on acquiring knowledge and skills to help Jewish organizations and their communities become more inclusive of people with disabilities. Participants heard about leading edge practices in services and supports for people with disabilities and their families across the lifespan. Additionally, the Institute focused on practical skills, personal leadership development and managing change in the Jewish community.
One of the challenges for Jewish communal professionals is a lack of support for professional development and the inability of organizations to fund travel to professional development opportunities. The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation assisted Institute participants by covering travel costs, room and board for those who needed such support. Based on the initial Institute, it will be modified and offered again in 2014. Inclusion of people with disabilities in the Jewish community is a growing movement. Families of children with disabilities are demanding it, adults with disabilities are calling for it and many communities are responding. The goal of the Jewish Leadership Institute on Disability and Inclusion is to have it happen everywhere.