In less than a week, nearly five thousand Reform Jews will descend upon the sprawling San Diego Convention Center for the 72nd Union of Reform Judaism Biennial Convention. “Biennial is where Jews gather to learn, pray, share ideas, dance and sing, hear from inspiring guest speakers, reunite with old friends, make new connections, and reimagine Jewish life.”
I love everything about Biennial…almost. I have noticed, over the years, that while accommodations are available, this experience has not been fully inclusive to those with disabilities who wish to attend. As in all aspects of Jewish life, those who are tenacious and determined have forged their path and participated, but there has not been a concerted effort to seek, welcome and include Jews with disabilities.
This year will be different.
The Union for Reform Judaism has partnered with The Ruderman Family Foundation to lead by example. Their goals include raising awareness of the importance of inclusion for all people and bringing attention to, developing and implementing best practices in including those with disabilities at the Biennial. The Ruderman Family Foundation is a leader in the Jewish world for advocacy, philanthropy and modeling full inclusion of individuals with disabilities in all aspects of Jewish and congregational life. I encourage you to read more about this exciting partnership.
Many of the keynote speakers and song sessions will be live-streamed, and if you wish to follow on Twitter, the hashtag is #Biennial13. I will be actively tweeting from @JewishSpecialEd. In addition, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to represent Matan Inc. at the Biennial. Matan advocates for Jewish students with special needs, empowers their families, and educates Jewish leaders, teachers and communities so that all Jewish children have access to a rich and meaningful Jewish education. I encourage you to follow @MatanInc and like Matan on Facebook to keep up with the learning and excitement.
Finally, I am excited to be presenting in two Biennial learning sessions focused on inclusion. The first one is called “We Are All in This Together: Disability Rights in Our World” and is in partnership with the Religious Action Center. The second session is called “Successfully Including Youth With Special Needs” and is in partnership with URJ Camps, The Foundation for Jewish Camp and NFTY, the Reform Jewish Youth Movement. If you are attending, join us. There are additional inclusion focused learning options, as well.
I believe that this Biennial can be the first step in ensuring that full inclusion across the Reform Movement becomes a true reality.