Inclusive Philanthropy

by Jay Ruderman

“The day is short, the task is great and the master is urgent”
(Chapters of the Fathers, 2:20)

Thousands of people and hundreds of Jewish organizations are dedicated to working towards the full inclusion of people with disabilities in our communities. US government statistics show that 20% of the US population has some form of disability. This is a population we are all connected to.

Our foundation and many others believe that all Jews should be fully included in Jewish communal life, whether at school, synagogue or in the workforce. No one should be excluded from participating and no barriers constructed to keep people out. As this issue probably affects someone in your family, a neighbor or a friend, full inclusion needs to have a prominent place on the Jewish agenda.

The question for Jewish funders and philanthropists is: Are you funding programs which are fully inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities?

There’s a growing number of philanthropists and major Jewish organizations dedicated to full inclusion of people with disabilities in our community, but we need more partners in our efforts. It is crucial that philanthropic leaders are made aware of the issue of inclusion and its centrality to vibrant Jewish life.

The upcoming ADVANCE conference – the Ruderman Jewish Disabilities Funding Conference – is specifically designed to engage and challenge Jewish funders. We do not want philanthropists to change their funding strategies but we want them to consider being more inclusive with their charitable donations.

Conference attendees will learn:

  • how to include supports, services and opportunities for Jews with disabilities in whatever programs or fields they fund
  • how to recognize programs that promote inclusion
  • how to deal with pressure from prominent organizations to fund programs that segregate.

To advance the cause of inclusive philanthropy, the conference partners with major Jewish organizations so they too can bring this message to their funders. Partners include the Jewish Funders Network, Jewish Federations of North America, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and Combined Jewish Philanthropies in Boston. Their participation shows the importance attached to full inclusion and their commitment to making it a reality.

The American Jewish community has many issues which need fixing and important matters to be grappled with. Inclusion of all members of our community should be something which we can all agree on. Funders and philanthropists play a vital role in making this happen.

People with disabilities want to be included in every aspect of Jewish communal life. The day is short, the task is great and it is imperative that we all work together to create a dynamic and attractive Jewish community for everyone.

Jay Ruderman is the President of the Ruderman Family Foundation.