Earlier this month, the UN held its Eighth Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in April 2006, is based on the ideals of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and is intended to empower persons with disabilities to be independent and productive. CRPD represents an international effort to bring the world closer to achieving the goals of equality, opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities.
Last week, I had the opportunity to travel to the Orthodox Union for the biannual meeting of Hineinu representatives. Hineinu (“Here we are” in Hebrew) is an innovative collaboration of the disability professionals from each Jewish denomination that was launched in 2013. Consisting originally of the Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist and Reform Jewish Movements, and now Chabad, Hineinu representatives share resources, support and direction in order to increase disability inclusion in our synagogues.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness of mental illnesses and the importance of mental wellness for all. In our own country, an estimated 18.6 percent or 43.7 million Americans live with mental illnesses, and 4.1% or 9.6 million U.S. adults have a serious mental illness. Whether or not we have personally experienced a mental illness, no family or community is immune.
Today, at the opening day of the Consultation on Conscience, we opened our programming with a short plenary followed by two rich and engaging workshop blocks. Participants had the opportunity to learn about the importance of national paid sick days legislation from Vicki Shabo of the National Partnership for Women and Families; to learn about the moral call to end climate change from Rabbi Larry Troster of GreenFaith; to delve into how create inclusive communities for people with disabilities; to hear from Rabbi Joel Mosbacher on his work to prevent the greater scourge of gun violence prevention; just to name a few of the wonderful workshops! Read more…
On April 26, 2015, hundreds of Reform Jews will gather for the Consultation on Conscience, the Reform Movement’s flagship social justice conference. That Sunday, participants will have the opportunity to hear from Ari Ne’eman, president and co-founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, an advocacy organization run by and for Autistic adults seeking to increase the representation of Autistic people across society; Liz Leibowitz, Legislative Associate at the Jewish Federations of North America; and Edie Mencher, Coordinator of the URJ-Ruderman Family Foundation Partnership for Inclusion of People with Disabilities. In the workshop “Ramping Buildings and Ramping Attitudes: Disability Inclusion and Advocacy,” the speakers will discuss best practices for including people with disabilities in Jewish communities and how to complement your inclusion efforts with disability rights advocacy.
When I left for college my freshman year, I was nervous about exploring a new Jewish community. However, I immediately felt at home as I walked into my university’s Hillel’s Conservative Friday night services and saw the Siddur Sim Shalom, the prayer book that I had grown up with. The siddur offered me a sense of comfort and familiarity in an otherwise completely new setting.
I’ve loved working at the RAC these past six months and one of the highlights of my time at the RAC so far has been our L’Taken social justice seminars for high school students, where nearly 300 Reform Jewish teens come to Washington, D.C. for a weekend to learn about social justice, lobby on Capitol Hill and get inspiration to be lifelong Jewish advocates. Now, when I first applied for this job, I wasn’t particularly excited about L’Taken. While the idea of engaging high school students on important social justice issues sounded appealing, I thought back to how my classmates behaved in high school. Fortunately, it turned out I was wrong and running six L’Takens the past three months has reminded me why I love working for the RAC so much.