Rachel Rosner, Rachel Kest, Lisa Luxemberg, Emily Krohn and Rebecca Reich, Rochester attendees at the Ruderman Inclusion Summit, November 2017
Building, strengthening and supporting an inclusive community is fundamental to the work of the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester. “Inclusion is not a practice or a program; it’s a mindset,” says Rachel Kest, Director of Jewish Education and Engagement. “It’s thinking about including all people from the get-go, rather than as an afterthought. There’s a saying in our tradition that we’re all created in the image of God.”
In addition to providing on-going professional development for local Jewish educators through inclusion specialists at Matan, the Federation sent several attendees to the Ruderman Inclusion Summit in Boston in November. The summit brought together 1,000 people from around the world to advance the cause of full inclusion in every aspect of life.
We share, here, some of our attendees’ impressions:
Rebecca Reich: “I was fortunate to attend the Ruderman Inclusion Summit. One session I attended that made an impression on me was the interfaith session, and how different faiths talk about disability. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism said, ’We are not the same, and that is our strength.’ Acceptance makes us better people. Sharing ideas or stories with our neighbors at the church across the street, or the synagogue down the road, will only strengthen our community. Rabbi Jacobs continued, ‘Don’t look at the bottle but look what’s inside. Inside those people we include is another great gift from G-d.’ I can't agree more. On a personal note, my child who has autism amazes me with her love and joy for life, and reminds me daily what a wonderful world this is. I look forward to working in our Rochester Jewish community to build upon what I learned from the Ruderman Inclusion Summit.”
Rachel Rosner: “As anyone does before a conference, I hoped to gather lots of concrete ideas to bring back home. What I ended up coming away with was much larger that that. I was in awe of the incredible group of people who were assembled in one place—from disabled advocates to leaders in the Jewish community, to elected officials. I was inspired just to be a part of the crowd. Accommodations were everywhere. Extra space at tables for wheelchairs, CART services, interpreters, service dogs, signage, and even a quiet sensory room. They were simply provided, no questions asked. The accommodations weren't special, they just ‘were.’ And because of that, we were able to get so much more from the Summit itself. I am inspired to work to ensure that every space in the Jewish community is accessible to everyone. Because when everyone feels welcome and can participate, our entire community is richer. “
Lisa Luxemberg: “The Ruderman Inclusion Summit was full of energy from the minute we walked into the convention center. People were very friendly and started to network right away. The speakers included actors, broadcasters, congressmen and senators; as well as the Ruderman family. I learned a lot about the impact government has on the services and providers that work with people with a disability. I work in healthcare, so I chose the breakout sessions that would benefit me the most. I learned about new technology being developed and used throughout the world; and healthcare advances to promote better understanding of the needs of people with a disability. My favorite quote from the summit was: ‘Without exclusion, we wouldn't have to talk about inclusion. Let's do better together.’”
Participating in this international event was especially beneficial as it helped inform the Federation’s latest venture: Thanks to a generous grant from the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation, the Federation and AutismUp are creating a new position and service – the Jewish Family Navigator – which will connect Jewish families with each other and the larger disability community.
To learn more about this service please contact Rachel Kest.