Ruderman Inclusion Summit Hopes to Advance the Rights of People with Disabilities

By Maayan Hoffman

Up to 1,000 individuals from a variety of sectors, including tech, policy, human services, fashion, education, social justice, business, housing, advocacy and more will come together this November at the Ruderman Inclusion Summit to build a social movement.

“Our task ahead is to build a social movement for the next 25 years – one that will advance the rights of people with disabilities and usher in a fully inclusive society,” said Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation.

Speaking to eJewish Philanthropy, Ruderman said he and his family foundation have passionately invested in inclusion for a decade. The work has been successful, but limited to the scope of the partnerships and funds of “a very small family.” The goal of the summit is to gather fellow advocates to increase momentum. This is the second summit. The first on was in 2015.

The conference will run for two days, from November 19 to 20, in Boston, Mass. The days will be packed with 15 panels and plenaries. Sessions will focus on all aspects of inclusion, from higher education for persons with disabilities to employment, housing and law enforcement uses of force with persons with disabilities. A congressional panel will be moderated by PBS News Hour anchor Judy Woodruff.

Speakers are expected to draw a crowd, such as Hollywood actors and actresses, including Marlee Matlin (Academy Award, “Children of a Lesser God”) and Stephanie Nogueras (star, ABC Family’s “Switched at Birth”), among others.

“Let’s talk about ideas of advocacy, how we can change the world, how we can make the world a more inclusive place,” said actor and advocate Danny Woodburn in a promotional video. He will be attending and is helping to promote the summit.

Congressman Jim Langevin (Rhode Island) and Richard E. (Dick) Marriott, chairman of Host Hotels & Resorts/Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities are also on the roster.

One in five people in the world has some form of disability – physical, mental, cognitive or emotional, Ruderman said. And the same holds true in the Jewish community. Often, Jewish organizations have failed to welcome these individuals or even excluded them.

“The younger generation already has internalized the value of including everyone, but some of our [Jewish] organizations are stuck in an elitist mode where they are looking only to reach out to our best and brightest and the upwardly mobile,” Ruderman told eJP. “Representatives of these organizations should come and learn how to be more inclusive. They are missing the wave of the future and the chance to build a community.

Ruderman said the conference is for those in and outside of the field and to Jews and non-Jews. He said the summit will be a good opportunity to network with colleagues and professionals – anyone “devoted to making our lives a little more inclusive.”

So far, more than 500 people are registered. The summit is being co-promoted by 250 organizations ranging from synagogues to schools to nonprofits and is being financially backed by conglomerates like Wal Mart and Giant Eagle.

Haben Girma, disabilities advocate and the first deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School, said: “Advocacy often begins with a small step.”

To learn more and register for the Ruderman Inclusion Summit, click here.