5 Ways Sukkot is the Perfect Inclusive Holiday

 5 Ways Sukkot is the Perfect Inclusive Holiday; Removing the Stumbling Block

Sukkot can be the ideal Jewish holiday for disability inclusion. Ok, the truth is that every holiday should be inclusive. But certain holidays definitely lend themselves more naturally toward being inclusive than others, so I think we would be wise to learn what we can and apply it across other situations as we strive to make every holiday inclusive.

What is Sukkot?

“On the fifteenth day of this seventh month there shall be the Feast of Booths to the Eternal, [to last] seven days.” ~ Leviticus 23:34

Sukkot is a Pilgrimage Festival in which Jews celebrate the autumn harvest. The Torah identifies the sukkah (booth) with the temporary dwellings in which the Israelites lived during their journey through the wilderness to Israel. The mood of Sukkot is joyous. The symbolism of a successful harvest offers a welcome change of pace from Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur; which were much more solemn days of prayer and introspection.

La Inclusion del ABC - The ABC's of Inclusion in Spanish!

It's always a thrill to learn that something I have written resonates. Fair Isn't Equal has been used by college professors teaching classes about equality and inclusion. Inclusion is NOT Social Action was cross-posted by the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. Numerous other posts have been shared on Think Inclusive, Kveller, and ReformJudaism.org, while still others have been republished in newsletters and shared by administrators & school directors with teachers and staff. 

That was what I hoped for when I started this blog - that what I write would resonate and help those seeking to make their schools, organizations and communities more inclusive.

But I think one of the neatest requests came over the summer. Loretta Boskovic of FACTOregon asked to share my image of The ABC's of Inclusion in a Back-to-School Checklist she was running. Since many of their readers are native Spanish speakers, she also asked permission to recreate the image in Spanish. I am so glad she shared it with me so that I can now share it with all of you!

I hope that this blog has motivated or inspired you to work toward increased inclusion in some way. Please share in the comments below!

If you are interested in republishing any content from this blog, please contact me directly.

Inclusion of People With Disabilities and Judaism Belong Together

My personal vision as a Jewish Educator is to ensure that all children have an equal opportunity; Removing the Stumbling Block
I "met" Emily Ladau online several years ago. I was instantly impressed by her commitment to self-advocacy. She openly and honestly shares her experiences as a person with a disability with the goal of raising awareness and pushing forward the agenda of disability rights in American society. I was so pleased to learn that Emily had participated in an accessible Birthright trip to Israel, and it made perfect sense to feature her story as my first guest post. I was flattered when she offered me an opportunity for a “post exchange”.  I sought her thoughts for a topic and she posed the following question: “How did it come to be that you care so deeply about Judaism and inclusive education?”

Wow. Where do I start?

At the age of seventeen my parents gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, and it truly was a life-changing experience. I spent six weeks of the summer between my junior and senior years of high school participating in NFTY (National Federation of Temple Youth) Urban Mitzvah Corps, an intense summer program designed to “provide participants with an authentic opportunity to explore their Jewish identities through the lens of social justice and tikkun olam (repairing the world).” Participants choose jobs sites and volunteer for three weeks at a time. I spent three weeks at Camp Daisy, a day camp for children with developmental disabilities, and that was it. I was hooked. My track was set. 

Little did I know that my professional life would eventually come full circle.

life comes full circle; Removing the Stumbling BlockAfter high school I went on to Rutgers University to master in Psychology while pursuing certifications in both special and elementary education. I worked for six years in a public school district renowned for its special education programs and I remained focused as a classroom teacher while completing a Master’s program in Counseling Psychology.

I left the classroom when my son was born, only to quickly realize how much I missed it. Not ready to return to full time work, I called my local synagogue to explore the possibility of substitute teaching. To my surprise, they were seeking a seventh grade teacher. I immediately conveyed my interest, sharing that I had been a middle school special education teacher. To this day, I still joke that I could hear my now colleague drooling over the phone when she heard me say “special education”.

You see, like many congregations, ours was struggling to meet the needs of diverse learners. Most professional Jewish educators and teachers did not have any mandatory training or formal experience with learning challenges or disabilities (they still don’t – but that’s another story for another day), and as a result, synagogues were often turning families away.

And so my worlds collided, beautifully. I brought my experience and expertise in special education to the world of Jewish education, and discovered that it was a perfect fit.

My personal vision as a Jewish Educator is to ensure that all children have an equal opportunity to attend a safe, challenging and engaging program, where they can explore their heritage, form authentic relationships and live meaningful Jewish lives. 

I am so fortunate to be able to share what I have learned with others. It is an honor that our synagogue’s program and inclusive practice can serve as a model to others. I take great pride in opportunities to consult with other congregations seeking to do this work. I love leading workshops and training sessions for teachers, teens, clergy and lay leaders to help them to do what I know is right and just. 

Inclusion of individuals with disabilities and Judaism belong together. 

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Intentionally Teaching a Message of Inclusion – “An Ugly Encounter”

To be truly successful, inclusion of individuals with disabilities must be “what we do”. When we lead by example, modeling inclusion within our faith communities, we let our constituents know that it is our expectation that they will treat one another with dignity and respect.  

Lead by example, model inclusion; Removing the Stumbling Block

Sometimes, however, that’s not quite enough. Sometimes this belief and commitment doesn't fully move from expectation to good intentions to action. This is when the value of inclusion must be intentionally taught.
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