…we are committed to create an embracing and accessible community
Inclusion has always been an important value at Temple Beth Ami. I am always proud to see the diversity of our congregation, where people with both physical or mental disabilities are warmly welcomed in our congregation. Few people flinch when someone calls out during a service or appears a bit different. Students know that they can learn in a safe and comfortable environment in both our Religious School and Nursery School. Our Temple even has an Inclusion Committee that works to make sure we are meeting the needs of the congregation – new members and old.
February is Jewish Disability and Inclusion month. The word disability is such a stigmatized word. The word suggests that these individuals are unable to function in society. Yet, there is so much that these unique individuals can do in a different way—and it helps us to approach things from a new perspective. In the Bible we are told: “Atem Nitzvaim—You all stand here today—all of you, before Adonai, your God—your tribal leaders, your elders, and your officials, all the men of Israel, your children, your wives, even the stranger within your camp, from the woodchopper to water drawer—to enter into this covenant of Adonai your God.” (Deut. 29:9-11). The Torah teaches us the importance of inclusivity—that each person is to be valued.
At Beth Ami there are many ways we strive to be an inclusive community, and I thought you should know about some of the efforts being made.
- The grounds have a paved path and handicap parking access
- There is an elevator in the building to the second floor
- There are quiet rooms available during Temple activities
- Live streaming of services
- Railing and ramp to the bima, large print siddur and hearing devices
- A welcoming committee to great guests and members
- Food allergy policy for the Temple- We made our Temple a Nut Free zone and there are always gluten free and dairy free options available at our services and events
- Mental Health awareness programs including our new Bitachon group
- An inclusion section of our Temple Website
And in our schools:
- Sensory friendly services with “pray by pray” booklets
- TBANS/Machane food allergy policy
- TBANS employs part time OT, SLP, Developmental Support Coordinator and Social Thinking specialist to provide professional training, mentoring and ongoing consultation for teachers and parents of children with diverse needs.
- Atzma’im (independent) program for students with diverse needs in grades 3-6
- Customized B’nai Mitzvah services for kids with special needs.
- “Break Boxes” on inclusion bins for students who need extra support to focus (stress balls, noise cancelling headphones, bumpy seats)
- Teacher training session on inclusive practices
- Inclusion specialist on staff
At Beth Ami, we are committed to create an embracing and accessible community. We never want a person’s disabilities to get in the way of our ability to see that person’s special gifts and talents.
Please mark your calendars for Friday, February 22nd when we welcome a special speaker, Aaron Kaufman of the Jewish Federation of North America’s D.C office. Having Cerebral Palsy, Aaron feels he brings a unique perspective to JFNA’s effort on behalf of people with disabilities. Outside of advocacy, he was the instructor in Project SEARCH Montgomery, a job-training program for young adults with significant disabilities. Please don’t miss the opportunity to hear from Aaron.
This month, I want to acknowledge the hard work and impressive efforts of our Inclusion Committee and assure you that Beth Ami is a place we can be proud of. But we know that we can always do better. If there are any ways in which we can better meet your needs or the needs of those you care about in our community, please let us know. We would be glad to have a conversation. We want Beth Ami to be a place where all feel included and welcome.