Disability with dignity

by | Feb 13, 2020 | Other News

In recognition of February as Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusivity Month, this is the second of a two-piece spotlight on the community’s awareness and actions on behalf of people with disabilities.

For Tidewater’s Jewish agencies, congregations, and buildings, making certain that all people are welcome—including those with physical or mental challenges—has become increasingly important. Jewish Family Service of Tidewater, for example, offers multiple programs to serve a wide range of community members with special needs, and Camp JCC at the Simon Family JCC, offers Yachad, a program that enables all kids to experience camp fun. Along with other ongoing efforts of inclusion, both were mentioned in the Feb. 3 issue of Jewish News.

Still, so much more takes place within the Jewish community to assure inclusion.

Chabad of Tidewater “welcomes all people, especially those with special needs,” says Rabbi Levi Brashevitzky. “We have a bunch of reading glasses available and we’ve enhanced the access ramp. We are looking into obtaining books used during services in Braille.”

Brashevitzky says Chabad continues to make every effort to have an interpreter to translate to sign language. “Most importantly,” he says, “we treat those with special needs with equal respect and incorporate them as regulars, whenever possible.”

Temple Israel and Congregation Beth El have partnered with Claudia Mazur, from Faith Inclusion Network, on special projects and group conversations fostering Kavod, Hebrew for dignity, honor, and respect.

Technology can be one of the most intimate tools used to demonstrate respect and dignity and inclusivity. After winning a grant to assist in the installation of some new technology, Mazur has helped Beth El implement the newly proposed Assisted Listening System, which enhances congregants’ abilities to hear the services, music, speakers, and importantly, any safety announcements that might need to be relayed. The system comes with its own devices for which the congregants can use both standard earbuds, as well as the neck loop system to work with their T-coil equipped hearing aids. This system also has an expanded range that allows hearing impaired congregants and visitors to use their phones as their listening device through an app.

Mazur is slated to be the guest speaker at Temple Israel’s Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Shabbat. Combining art with an intention to foster diversity, connectivity, acceptance, and inclusion, congregants will be given a puzzle piece to decorate. Together all of the puzzle pieces will form a ‘we are Temple Israel’ themed poster, designed by Bobbie Fisher. It will be on display for people to experience while attending the special Shabbat service.

Ohef Sholom Temple “strives to create an inclusive environment that not only embraces diversity, but also allows the full participation of people with disabilities,” says Linda Peck, the temple’s executive director. Ohef Sholom offers various options such as Braille and large-print prayer books for those with no sight or limited vision; an amplification system for people with hearing issues; a lift that allows access to the bimah in the sanctuary for anyone needing assistance managing steps; and an ADA-compliant bathroom.

Peck says that the temple’s Religious School recognizes that providing a Jewish education for all children requires a commitment to meeting each child’s unique needs and addressing them in a way that allows them to thrive in an appropriate classroom.

“Our Virginia-certified special education teacher works with each enrolled child to develop an individualized Jewish education plan (JIEP); provide adaptive equipment, materials and other accommodations; and oversee a special safe classroom for students who need to be in their own setting,” says Peck. “Because we feel inclusion in temple activities is important and desirable for all students, our ultimate goal is the integration into the regular school routine whenever possible.”

Special events in recognition of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month

Dr. Arielle Silverman: Treating all with respect
Sunday, February 23, 11 am
Ohef Sholom Temple,
free with RSVP
RSVP to reservations@ohefsholom.org or call 757-625-4295.

Claudia Mazur from Faith Inclusion Network

Temple Israel’s Disability Awareness, Acceptance & Inclusion Shabbat
Saturday, February 29,
9:30 am to 12 pm
Contact: info@templeisraelva.org or call 757-489-4550.

– Lisa Richmon