New Online Learning Center Launched to Enhance Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Synagogue Programs

disabilities_inclusion_logo_@2XThe Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and the Ruderman Family Foundation have launched the URJ Ruderman Disabilities Inclusion Learning Center, an innovative and interactive online resource center.

A key element of the far-reaching URJ Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Initiative, this pioneering learning site, open to all, offers visitors the information and strategies to develop truly inclusive congregations where everyone can fully participate in and contribute to Jewish communal life and learning. An equally important goal of the site is to decrease the stigma and misconceptions surrounding disabilities.

The resource center includes dozens of practical, skill-building webinars and print resources created by leading disabilities-inclusion experts including:

  • Shelly Christensen, founder of Inclusion Innovations
  • Lisa Friedman, co-education director at Temple Beth-El in Hillsborough, NJ
  • Howard Blas, director, National Ramah Tikvah Network
  • Meredith Polsky, co-founder, Matan
  • Rabbi Steven Rau, director of lifelong learning, The Temple in Atlanta, GA
  • Stacey Levy, learning consultant, The Temple in Atlanta, GA
  • Rabbi Lynne Landsberg, senior advisor on disability issues, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
  • Maria Hartman, instructor, Columbia Teachers College

Users will learn how to incorporate practices that promote inclusion in such areas as early childhood programming, religious school, b’nai mitzvah preparation, worship, and adult and youth programming. Additionally, information will be available about disabilities advocacy and community partnerships. There are questions at the end of each study session to ensure participants have absorbed the material. Finally, users will be encouraged to share questions and comments with one another and with disabilities experts through the site’s discussion boards.

In discussing the idea behind the initiative, Ruderman Family Foundation President Jay Ruderman told eJP: “Our Jewish communities have the potential to be more open, welcoming places for people of all abilities and their families. We all know that the center of our Jewish community is the synagogue. Our partnership with URJ will provide the tools and knowledge necessary to transform synagogues across North America into gathering places that are more fair and welcoming to all Jews. Ultimately we will build a more inclusive and attractive community for us all.”