If you knew February was Black History month, or if you’ve heard of a man named Martin Luther King, raise your hand. Most of us know or remember that King was the king of dreamers when it came to Americans joining hands as an inclusive society. His most memorable idealization centered on speeding up “that day when all of God’s children – black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics – will be able to join hands.”
Now raise your hand again if you knew the Orthodox Union was instrumental in passing a congressional resolution expanding recognition for February as NAIM (North American Inclusion Month): an initiative to heighten awareness and sensitivity for those who live with disabilities and promote their inclusion in the larger community.
If there aren’t as many hands up this time, that’s a shame because we need more.
King’s dream of joining hands only cut across lines of race and religion but failed to mention 20% of our population. Those 20% are the ones least likely to be included and the least likely to raise their voices or their hands in self advocacy. Currently, there are 1 in 5 Americans living with disabilities, and everyone knows someone who does. Special needs individuals cut across ALL lines of segregation: race, religion, socioeconomic status and gender. But don’t be naive; 80% of those citizens are unemployed and 100% are still being excluded in fundamental aspects of living or basic rights that the rest of us take for granted.
If you think it’s not so, the OU wants to enlighten you and U.S. government officials regarding these issues. Last year, 50 delegates of the Orthodox Union, joined hands on a mission to Washington, D.C. and spent the day lobbying legislators on critical resolutions including the successful reauthorizing of Individuals with Disabilities Act (which guarantees funding the education of special needs students).
And how about YOU? Would you be willing to extend a hand and do something dramatic on behalf of one million Jews having to overcome some sort of barrier if they want to be included in Jewish life? During February’s North American Inclusion Month (NAIM), the Orthodox Union and its agency, Yachad (National Jewish Council on Disabilities) will partner with you to provide opportunities for your community to learn how we can change things together.
NAIM’s mission is to develop sensitivity, awareness, and to educate communities on how they can ensure all Jews are properly included in all facets of Jewish life. Whether you are a synagogue, school, college or community center; we can help create ways for you to collaborate in what will be one of the biggest partnerships in building inclusive Jewish communities that integrate individuals with special needs.
February is Black History month and it’s also NAIM (North American Inclusion Month). Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream was a pleasant one, but it still needs to include Americans with disabilities. After all, it’s a simple expansion and integration of our own motto both as Jews and as U.S. citizens: One G-d, with one name, and one nation under G-d, with liberty and justice for all regardless of abilities.
Raise your hand if you believe that and let’s join hands with the OU because they also have a dream. It’s bigger, it’s better, it’s more inclusive, and it’s the most pleasant one of all. In fact, it’s NAIM.
To learn more about the many opportunities your community can choose from, or to find out how your community can take part in NAIM, please contact email@example.com or call YACHAD at 212-613-8229
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.