About a year ago I was interviewed for a podcast about inclusive education by The Inclusive Class. While typically geared toward a secular audience, our topic for this episode was inclusion in faith-based schools.
I hope that this discussion can help you move your journey forward. I am excited that I will again be a guest, along with Torrie Dunlap of Kids Included Together, on February 24.
For those who are struggling to make their place of worship more inclusive:
What advice would you give a professional or lay person in a congregation who wishes to spearhead such an effort?
It’s ok to start small, just start somewhere!
I wrote a blog post called Ten Steps to Make Your Congregation More Inclusive. I believe that to make genuine strides toward increased inclusion you must find partners. None of us can do this work on our own. We can start the conversation, but to do the work and do it well, we need partners and support. I also advise congregations to start with an existing need and let your efforts grow from there. This can be the launch pad to creating a broader inclusive culture.
For those struggling to find a spiritual home:
What advice would you give to a parent or family member of someone who is struggling to have his/her needs met by a community or who has been turned away from a spiritual home?
Do not give up. It’s worth the effort. If you have been turned away, it’s awful and I am sorry for that experience, but that’s not a place you would want to be long-term anyway…so it’s better that they showed their true colors up front. And shame on them.
If you love your spiritual home but you are struggling with a specific aspect of congregational life, find an advocate. There are consultants, like me, who can be brought in to help congregations make substantial and lasting change.
Separation of church and state means that faith-based schools do not receive government funding and are therefore not held to same laws. But legal obligations aside, we have a moral obligation. Everyone has a right to belong. Need a little inspiration for that part of the conversation?
In Leviticus 19:14 we are commanded, “You shall not insult the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind.” Stumbling blocks come in many forms, from less-than-accessible buildings, Shabbat services, prayer books and web pages that are harder to access or aren’t sufficient for people with disabilities. Judaism teaches that we are obligated to remove these stumbling blocks
For my house shall be a house of prayer for all people. (Isaiah 56:5)
Every member of the people of Israel is obligated to study Torah – whether one is rich or poor, physically able or with physical disability. (Maimonides, Mishne Torah, chapter 10)
Ben Azzai taught, “Despise no one and call nothing useless. For there is no thing that does not have its place and no person whose hour does not come.” (Pirkei Avot 4:3)