Creating a Sense of Urgency Around Inclusion

How can we change the culture of our community to one where individual members recognize and value inclusion?

In my work coaching organizations toward increased inclusion for people of all abilities, I spend a lot of time exploring organizational change. The one thing synagogue professionals and lay leaders ask most often is some version of this, “How do we change the culture of our community to one where individual members recognize and value inclusion?”  

Organizational culture change is a complex process that demands a clear vision and a focused leadership team committed to create, anchor and support change over time within the institutional culture. In other words, it is anything but a “quick fix.”

Inclusion is EVERYONE'S Issue



Twitter quotes; Removing the Stumbling Block

It’s exciting to attend a conference focused entirely on disability inclusion. I am grateful to the leadership of the Ruderman Family Foundation for convening such an event. Regardless of one’s interest, connection, professional role, or personal story – being in a space with nearly 1300 other people who are passionate about and committed to inclusion is inspiring.

Teaching Children to be Inclusive


Our personal memories of exclusion can be our most powerful teachers of inclusion; Removing the Stumbling Block

A few days ago someone I follow on Facebook shared the following article: How to Teach Your Child to be an “Includer”. It’s an older article, so I found myself wondering if she was sharing this now because it felt particularly timely, or if it was more of an extension of her own consistent, personal commitment to inclusion. Either way, it resonated with me and had me immediately recalling a post that I wrote for this blog which was widely shared: Teach Your Children to Be Accepting of Disabilities. 

It’s easy to write blog posts and forget about them. We live in an age of immediacy. Often, if something doesn’t happen in the moment, it won’t happen at all. Instant gratification has become the norm, even when we know that delaying gratification and taking time to process and reflect can be critical. It’s why I pointed out the fact that the article shared a few days ago was written a few months ago. Life moves fast. So even when blog posts “do well” and people read and share widely, a week or two later those same pieces are forgotten; and citing something written a few months or even a year ago can seem outdated.

But in this case, I think the message bears repeating and re-sharing: We CAN teach our children to be accepting. We CAN teach our children to be “includers”. And, maybe most importantly, we CAN teach our children to be kind.

Children really will do what we do. We have the power to model for them each and every day. We have the power to teach, through our own actions, how to be kind, compassionate and inclusive.

Inclusive Teen Experiences



Creating Inclusive Teen Experiences; Removing the Stumbling Block

One of the highlights of my work is leading experiences with teens. I am passionate about adolescents and have relished each of my opportunities to teach, guide, mentor, counsel and support this age group for nearly twenty years.

Building an inclusive teen program can be challenging, especially if you don't personally embrace a philosophy of inclusion. Unless you truly believe that every experience can and should be inclusive, you are bound to get stuck in notions such as, "Having her there takes something away from the other teens," and, "They shouldn't always have to look out for him." Until teen educators embrace the value of inclusion and recognize that an inclusive community is a stronger community for everyone, such fallacies will persist. I am exceptionally proud of the unique model we have built in our congregation. We have created a structure that affords all students, regardless of ability or need, the opportunity to participate fully. Including overnight experiences. And it works.

Synagogues across North America lament a significant decrease in engagement with Jewish life post-bar and bat mitzvah, but by offering a fully inclusive post b’nei mitzvah program, we maximize our students’ opportunities to continue learning, growing and engaging with Jewish life experiences. Further, we are socially engineering relationships between teens every step of the way, maximizing their potential for developing strong Jewish friendships. 

Professor Steven M. Cohen of HUC-JIR states that, “Jewish educators should have an explicit mission to bestow Jewish friendship networks on children and adults who are increasingly unlikely to find them on their own.”

Our teens are entitled to every Jewish opportunity possible. An inclusive program benefits everyone.

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