YACHAD/NJCD AND THE ORTHODOX UNION ANNOUNCE FEBRUARY 2011 AS SECOND NORTH AMERICAN INCLUSION MONTH (NAIM)
By Batya Graber
Based on the success of its initial year in 2010, the Orthodox Union’s Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities (NJCD) | Jewish Disabilities Integration announces that February will once again be North American Inclusion Month (NAIM), a timeframe specifically designated to raise awareness and to develop sensitivity of what it means for those who live with disabilities, and how to include them within the larger Jewish community.
NJCD has two main programmatic divisions: Yachad, for children and adults with learning and developmental disabilities; and Our Way, for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman, National Director of Yachad/NJCD, originated the idea for NAIM, and has overseen the program content. Dr. Lichtman stated, “For over 20 years Yachad,NJCD has championed Inclusion for individuals within the broad Jewish community who have disabilities. Building on that success, NAIM looks to take communities and their institutions to new levels of awareness — awareness as to our obligation to welcome and facilitate the Inclusion of all children and adults within our synagogues, schools and community; awareness too, of the many abilities that individuals with disabilities have and how much they have to offer our community. NAIM seeks to build a more open, more vibrant, stronger community that will benefit each of us individually and collectively.”
NAIM 2011 events have already been scheduled for the following areas: Baltimore; Los Angeles; Miami; Toronto; Elizabeth, Fairlawn, Livingston and Ocean County, in New Jersey; Long Island, New York City and Riverdale, in New York; Dallas and Houston; with other communities to be added.
A “Save the Month” card announcing NAIM went out to almost a thousand synagogues and schools, as well as hundreds of Yachad-connected communities. E-mail blasts and a full-scale brochure went out to that audience as well, reminding them of the many wonderful events in which they could participate.
“We believe that every synagogue, school and community organization can be involved in NAIM to bring Inclusion to their members and students,” declared Dr. Joe Goldfarb, co-NAIM Coordinator. “Yachad works very closely with each organization on an individual basis to assist in determining the best style of involvement for NAIM — whether it be a sensitivity training seminar or guest speaker for a school; innovative programming for college students; or arranging a scholar-in-residence or theme Shabbat or any number of other options.”
According to Batya Jacob, Director of the National Association of Jewish Schools Serving Special Children, a division of Yachad, “We are hearing from schools throughout the United States requesting workshops on sensitivity training geared to middle and high school students to educate about different types of disabilities that their peers may have. The same workshops can also be given for teachers and school administrators. We are already booked to run this training in Milwaukee, as well as communities in Florida, New Jersey and New York.”
Last year, the United States Congress passed HR 1014 establishing every February as North American Inclusion Month. Yachad coordinated more than 50 guest speakers all over the United States and Canada, more than 75 events, with more than 200 partners.
Working with communities across North America, NJCD is planning a whole new series of events for February 2011. The official NAIM website, which will list events as they are added, can be found at www.naim4inclusion.org. In addition to listing all participating NAIM events, the website provides easy access for program ideas and resources provided by Yachad. (See sidebar below)
Leadership Shabbaton in Washington, D.C.:
NAIM will culminate with its First-ever Leadership Shabbaton in Washington, D.C. for Yachad members and high school students. The Shabbaton will take place Friday, February 25-Sunday, February 27, at the National Synagogue, in the heart of the Capital. The Shabbaton will be a kick-off for Yachad’s Second Annual Leadership Mission, in partnership with the OU’s Institute for Public Affairs (IPA).
According to co-NAIM Coordinator Eli Hagler, “High school students from across the country, together with Yachad members and community leaders, will have the opportunity to meet and greet congressmen to discuss legislation, which if approved, would drastically improve the lives of families with children with disabilities. Last year, our mission was successful in helping to pass bills that included the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), and the Able Act, which allows families to set up tax-exempt accounts up to $500,000 to save for their child’s future and to help cover their child’s expenses.”
Visit NAIM, or contact 212-613-8229 to learn more about NAIM and the many events communities can partake in as part of the special awareness month.
PROGRAMMATIC SUGGESTIONS FOR COMMUNITIES PARTICIPATING IN NAIM
Communities may choose from a wide variety of NAIM events. Among them are:
• Dynamic Speakers, including parents of children with disabilities, as well as individuals themselves;
• Scholars-in-Residence, for Shabbat to inspire congregants with compelling stories and insights on how Inclusion enriches Jewish communities;
• Yachad Shabbatonim, offering a fun-filled weekend for both individuals with disabilities and participants from the mainstream community;
• Disability Awareness Day, highlighting the importance of Inclusion;
• Resource fairs, fundraisers, and recreational programs.
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