A Word of Caution Before Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month



Inclusion is a philosophy; Removing the Stumbling Block

There’s a buzz in the Jewish Disability World. Can you feel it? A few weeks from now will mark the beginning of yet another Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month; affectionately known by those who love acronyms as JDAIM. It can be a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness while highlighting the many great resources and opportunities that already exist within our communities. Personally, I always hope that it will lead to the opening of new doors that were once closed.

Disabilities vs. Special Needs - It's Time to Use the Words We Truly Mean

Disabilities vs. special needs, using the words we truly mean; Removing the Stumbling Block


I have wondered aloud (and in writing) about the difference between using the word disability and the phrase special needs.

While I prefer the term disability as I think it is clear, understandable and not in any way derogatory, I have been approached by parents of students in my school who have asked me to use the language of special needs because they find it gentler.

But here’s the thing: Don’t we all have needs? And aren’t we all special in some way? 

Embracing Good Enough

We can be our own worst enemies. 


Embracing good enough; Removing the Stumbling Block


Too many of us push ourselves to do more and more, never quite slowing down to appreciate what we have accomplished. And we are our own harshest critics when we haven’t reached the impossibly high standards we set for ourselves. 

MLK, Judaism and Disability Inclusion


Celebrating of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has me thinking about two things.

First, this quote:
MLK, Judaism and Disability Inclusion; Removing the Stumbling Block



“Faith is taking the first step even if you don’t see the entire staircase.”

Sometimes the way to make inclusion a reality is to take a leap of faith. Yes, we want to make sure we have the right supports, the right “buy in”, the right amount of money, the right facilities, the right…everything. But the truth is, we will never have EVERYTHING right. That’s life. That’s what makes life interesting and wonderful and challenging. If we waited for the stars to align before we took any risks, we’d never move. And so it is with inclusion. Think about everything – but take the leap of faith.

Second, this image:

King, Eisendrath, Torah - Removing the Stumbling Block

Every time I see it I get the chills. Really. It just reminds me of how deeply proud I am of my rich Jewish heritage. Our Torah teaches a simple truth, “You shall not wrong nor oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 22:20). This image is proof. 

How are you honoring MLK's legacy? 

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Create a More Inclusive Classroom

I have written a number of practical “how-to’s” to help create more inclusive classrooms and schools. Top Five Strategies for Your Inclusive Classroom and Ten Things to Know About Jewish Special Needs Education are terrific starting points.

Inclusion is belonging; Removing the Stumbling Block


However, there are two significant concepts at the core of creating inclusive learning environments that I would urge you to keep in mind:

First, accommodating isn’t the same as inclusion. Don’t get me wrong, making appropriate accommodations is an essential strategy in working with students who have unique learning needs. But there’s more to becoming truly inclusive. Inclusion is about belonging. It is about every student being fully integrated into the life of the classroom and the school. Making accommodations will be an integral part of the process, but it is not sufficient in and of itself. I share a great video to illustrate an activity that was beautifully re-framed in order to be inclusive in A Powerful Example of Inclusion.

Second, inclusion and disability awareness are NOT the same thing. Teaching a lesson or leading a conversation about disabilities does not mean that you are inclusive. It means you have taught a lesson about disabilities. It is important in its own right and a valuable component of inclusivity, but quality awareness-raising is only one aspect of inclusive practice.

Where and how you begin is far less important than just getting started. Trial and error is necessary. It really is ok to figure it out along the way.

Some additional resources for you to consider:

10 Reasons for Inclusive SchoolsThe Inclusive Class – A wonderful website rich with tools and strategies for secular classrooms that can be easily adapted and used in faith-based schools. I urge you not to shy away from secular resources “just because” you teach in a Jewish school.

Think Inclusive – Another exceptional website rich with content to support you at any place along your inclusive journey.

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