United Synagogue Receives Grant to Launch Inclusion Initiative

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, with support from the Ruderman Family Foundation, will launch an initiative to transform Conservative congregations into truly inclusive communities for people with disabilities.

Through the grant, United Synagogue will work with its affiliated kehillot to develop comprehensive visions and action plans on inclusion. The goal is to create congregations where everything – from the entryway to the bima, from education programs to prayer services, from social activities to the very attitudes of congregants and leaders – allows people with disabilities and their families to participate fully and comfortably in congregational life.

“Many of our kehillot have begun to meet the need for inclusion, primarily in the architectural arena. But few have been able to undertake the intense research, reflection, and planning needed to make inclusion a spiritual and programmatic reality,” said Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of United Synagogue.

“Thanks to the support of the Ruderman Family Foundation, we’ll provide the expertise and consulting that will let congregations enact the vision of one of Judaism’s essential teachings, that each one of us is created in the image of God and each life has intrinsic value.”

“Inclusion of people of all different abilities is already an intrinsic value held by generations of younger Jews,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “Working toward the goal of building an inclusive community, our foundation is proud to partner with United Synagogue to help encourage the establishment of inclusive synagogues across North America and thereby making our Jewish community more welcoming for all.”

United Synagogue will use the Ruderman grant to hire an inclusion specialist who will collaborate with USCJ leadership consultants in working with kehillot. The USCJ team will create an “action community” of 10 to 20 congregations which demonstrate the interest and readiness to study and work intensively on developing a realistic blueprint for change. The materials and learning from this group will then be shared with other congregations in our network, thereby multiplying the impact of the core group’s work.