Following Yachad’s North American Inclusion Month (NAIM) in February, 30 synagogues coast to coast are recipients of the Inclusive Synagogue Award, presented in response to a challenge from Yachad to synagogues and temples throughout North America to increase their Inclusion of individuals with disabilities.
Yachad, the flagship program of the Orthodox Union’s National Jewish Council for Disabilities (NJCD), provides unique social, educational and recreational programs for individuals with learning, developmental and physical disabilities with the goal of their Inclusion in the total life of the Jewish community.
As part of Yachad’s challenge, an inclusion survey was developed and distributed by the NAIM coordinators; the synagogues received the award based on their survey responses. Each of the award winners received a plaque, which states:
“Yachad’s mission is not only to include individuals with disabilities and challenges into the Jewish community but to raise the awareness of the responsibility of the Jewish community to include all members of their congregation, regardless of the challenges these individuals may face,” explained Batya Jacob, director of The International Jewish Resource Center for Inclusion and Special Education, a division of Yachad, an agency of the OU.
“With this in mind, Yachad works with synagogues and temples throughout North America to build a welcoming and non-restrictive environment in the place where Jewish life centers in each community, that is, the synagogue. We are pleased to recognize these thirty communities which are actively involved in inclusion of all members of their synagogues and hope to be able to add additional shuls in the coming years.”
Areas that were surveyed were physical plant (lighting, Braille signage, doors wide enough to fit a wheelchair, preferential seating); prayer services (ASL interpreted services, Braille or large print prayer books and the Five Books of Moses; use of Power Point Megillat Esther at Purim); youth programs (inclusive teen synagogue services, inclusive childcare, sensory room); and synagogue mission (inclusion committee, statement of inclusion on the membership application).
Synagogues were encouraged to share what they are currently doing to include all members of their community, regardless of challenges these individuals may have. At the same time, Yachad worked with synagogues to set up new inclusion committees and to help them increase the opportunities for their members within their synagogue.
Synagogues that received the 2013 Award:
California: Beth Jacob Congregation, Beverly Hills; Congregation Beth Israel, Berkeley; Bnai David-Judea, Los Angeles; Chevra Thilim, San Francisco
Colorado: BMH-BJ: The Denver Synagogue
Connecticut: Beth David, West Hartford
District of Columbia: Ohev Shalom-The National Synagogue
Florida: Temple Beth Israel, Sunrise
Illinois: Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob, Skokie
Massachusetts: Congregation Shaarei Tefillah, Newton Centre
Maryland: Ner Tamid Greenspring Valley, Baltimore; Bnei Jacob Shaarei Zion Congregation, Baltimore
Minnesota: Bet Shalom Congregation, Minnetonka; Darchei Noam, St. Louis Park
New Jersey: Ahavas Achim, Highland Park; Young Israel of East Brunswick; Mt. Freedom Jewish Center; Congregation Ahawas Achim Bnei Jacob and David, West Orange
New York: Great Neck Synagogue; Congregation Toras Emes of Staten Island; Shaarei Torah Orthodox Congregation of Syracuse, Dewitt; Congregation Shearith Israel, New York; Congregation Beth Shalom, Rochester
Ohio: Young Israel of Greater Cleveland, Beachwood; Green Road Synagogue, Beachwood; Heights Jewish Center, University Heights
Pennsylvania: Lower Merion Synagogue, Bala Cynwyd; Congregation Beth Hamedrosh, Wynnewood
Tennessee: Sherith Israel, Nashville