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Green Eggs and Hamantaschen: Creative Purim Gift Bags Bring a Community Together



by Betsy Zalaznick Purim at Or Chadash, in Flemington, N.J., includes many of the usual traditions: putting on a Purim spiel (play), using boxes of pasta as gragers, baking hamantaschen with our students, reading the Megillah, and hosting a spectacular carnival that features Esther’s Salon, Mordecai’s March Madness, a photo booth, and plenty of prizes […]

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Shaareinu: The “Collateral Good” Cannot be Overstated



By Eva Rubin Steen The leaders of Temple Beth Torah, a community that always has held inclusion and acceptance as core tenets, realized a few years ago that we were not doing a good job of welcoming those who face physical, emotional, or cognitive challenges. We recognized, too, that by excluding even one family member […]

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At URJ Camp Harlam, Creating a Community that Supports Everyone



by Cori Miller I recently heard about a beautiful woman who was known for, well, being beautiful. She was accustomed to being stared at and was repeatedly told, by strangers and loved ones alike, just how beautiful she was. While flattering, this constant focus on her appearance left her feeling judged solely on her looks, […]

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Striving for a Self-Determined Quality of Jewish Life for Jews with Disabilities



by Shelly Christensen “There comes a moment when you realize that what you’re advocating for is more than just accommodations. You’re really advocating for someone’s quality of life. That’s the moment you realize you won’t give up.” (Dyslexia Training Institute) Sometimes Facebook produces surprises, like this quote I recently found while scrolling mindlessly through my […]

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10 Ways to Celebrate Jewish Disability Awareness Month in Your Synagogue



With the start of February, so too begins Jewish Disability Awareness Month. Of course, there is nothing uniquely Jewish about disabilities, nor is there a greater need for inclusion in February than in any other month. So why observe Jewish Disability Awareness Month 2015 this February? We encourage Reform congregations to observe and participate in […]

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The Mi Shebeirach Quilt



by Shelley Schweitzer May the Source of strength, Who blessed the ones before us, Help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing, And let us say: Amen. The year was 1999 and the NFTY-Northeast Lakes (NFTY-NEL) community learned that there were big changes ahead. Long-time regional advisors Terry Pollack and Neil Poch […]

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Twenty Becomes One: Seeing Our Congregations as Family, Especially During Hardship



In the fall of 2008, I was the executive director of a 1,000-household synagogue. We had recently finished a major sanctuary renovation, and our membership numbers were on an encouraging upward trend. Our finances were sound, and we had big plans for the year ahead. The new president of our board was writing her first […]

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60+ Reform Rabbis to Shave Their Heads in Support of Pediatric Cancer Research



During the 125th annual Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) Convention, more than 60 Reform rabbis will shave their heads to raise awareness of and funding for pediatric cancer research. As the religious leadership of Reform Judaism, the CCAR Rabbis strive for justice and wholeness and health in the world in for all people. At […]

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Jay Ruderman: Disability Issues are Issues of Social Justice



by Jay Ruderman Wikipedia defines social justice as, “the ability people have to realize their potential in the society where they live.” This definition can be broken down into three parts: realizing potential, in society, and where they live. For Jewish people with disabilities, each of these parts presents a challenge – and for the […]

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A Special Worship Service for Jews with Disabilities and Their Families



by Nancy Crown When I was called to meet with a member of my synagogue’s Congregation-Based Community Organizing Committee, I almost declined.  I was asked to think about what the temple could do that it was not already doing. My main reaction was to reflect on the many opportunities for learning, worship, and community that […]

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The Chadash Program – A New Path for Young Adults with Disabilities



And then we asked, “what’s next?” It seemed only right and necessary that Coleman would be part of the next stage in Gideon’s life journey. So, in partnership with Bobby Harris and the Coleman community that is our family home, the Chadash program has been born. “Chadash” means “new,” and this truly is a new opportunity, a new path – one that can help give young adults with disabilities tools and skills for life success.

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URJ President to Spend Night at Homeless Shelter He Founded 30 Years Ago



In 1983, when Rabbi Rick Jacobs was the rabbi at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue (BHS), he had a vision to start a shelter to address the growing problem of homelessness in New York City. Thirty years later, the first synagogue-based homeless shelter in New York City is still responding to the need, run by volunteers from […]

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Reform Movement Allocates $125k for Typhoon Haiyan Relief Efforts



On November 7-8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane, made landfall in the Philippines. The storm came on the heels of an October earthquake that had affected more than 3 million people and disrupted life for more than 14 million Filipinos (nearly 15% of the total population). According to UNICEF, nearly […]

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Just Say Yes: Inclusion is a No-Brainer



Past President Michael Kaplan likes to tell the story about why he joined his current congregation and ultimately became its president. He talks about one High Holy Days when he entered the sanctuary with his wife, their profoundly challenged son Brandon, and Brandon’s guide dog. Settling into the services, sitting in the front row, they […]

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