Fostering Inclusion and Accessibility at the 2013 Biennial
Anyone who has attended a URJ Biennial knows that the experience touches your soul, lifts your spirits, increases your Judaic knowledge, and improves your singing ability. Now, the 2013 Biennial will also help congregations and individuals understand how to include those with disabilities as welcome and appreciated full members of your community. This Biennial will demonstrate to our Movement and our partners, by example, what it means to be inclusive.
In keeping with our mission and core values, the Union for Reform Judaism is making a concerted effort to raise awareness of the importance of inclusion for all people in Jewish life. It will also bring attention to, develop and implement best practices in including those with disabilities at the 2013 URJ Biennial.
A new partnership with the Ruderman Family Foundation is helping us to greatly expand our efforts to welcome and make possible full participation of those with disabilities, and advocate for their meaningful engagement in our community. The 2013 Biennial will include operational accommodations, programming, strategic communications and public relations, modeling, and expanding our reach to include those with disabilities, as well as their supporters and advocates.
The Biennial will provide accommodations for those with disabilities throughout the event, including:
- Our designated Biennial Accessibility Coordinator will give individualized attention on a case-by-case basis and who will ensure necessary plans and accommodations are implemented. Contact Lisa David for more information.
- Mandatory training for staff and volunteers will help us create a welcoming community and successfully accommodate and support those with disabilities.
- General accommodations will include broad-impact modifications to enhance accessibility and model inclusivity.
An on-site Participant Care Team will be available at the Biennial to provide on-site support.
Specific program components that will address issues of inclusion and disabilities include:
- A Place for All to Worship: Inclusion Efforts in Our Synagogues*
- We’re All in This Together: Disability Rights in Our World*
- Successfully Including Youth With Disabilities
- Inclusion or “Inclusion”: Religious School, Lifelong Learning, and Engagement in Synagogue Life
- The Angst of Aging: Alzheimer’s Disease and the Jewish Community
- Engaging Teens at Risk: Understanding the Mental Health Needs of Adolescents*
- Mental Illness and Our Congregations: Supporting Our Families with Open Hearts
- Inclusion and Accessibility Networking Lunch*
Sessions marked with an asterisk (*) will also introduce Hineinu: Jewish Community for People of All Abilities, a new, groundbreaking cross-denominational inclusion initiative in which the URJ and the Religious Action Center are playing a crucial role. This innovative collaboration will enable the sharing of resources, support, and direction in order to increase disability inclusion in our synagogues and institutions. Information on Hineinu and additional inclusion resources and opportunities for congregations will be announced at the Biennial.
Rabbi Lynne Landsberg, Senior Advisor of Disability Rights at the RAC, says,
We learn from Pirkei Avot, ‘do not separate yourself from the community.’ This Biennial will help us all understand that this is a reciprocal imperative. That the community should not force Jews to separate by denying them accommodation. We Jews with disabilities should see this fabulous Biennial as our coming out party!
Jay Ruderman of the Ruderman Family Foundation, says,
The Ruderman Family Foundation is proud to partner with URJ, the largest religious movement in our Jewish community and a major influencer in Jewish life, to shine a spotlight at this year’s Biennial on the importance of the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of Jewish life. By taking a leadership role at this year’s Biennial in educating our community about the importance of including all members of our community in Jewish life, we believe that our partnership with URJ will begin the process of attracting younger members of our community to re-engage in a fairer, more equitable community.
Accessibility in the Reform Jewish community has made some tremendous strides including a statement that all should be welcome to attend the Biennial. There is much more work to do and the best we can do is show up, speak up and share our enthusiasm and love for Judaism along with everybody else within the greater Jewish Community. It would be an honor to meet you, so please join us as we gather with over 5,000 other Reform Jews arriving from all over the country and Israel to San Diego for a wonderful Biennial.
We invite those with disabilities, their families, advocates, and everyone else committed to creating diverse and welcoming sacred communities to join us for the Biennial. We will share the experiences, absorb your valued input, and highlight questions our Movement needs to consider as we move forward in this vital initiative. Register now to attend the URJ Biennial!