Yachad Presents Inclusive Synagogue Award Nationally for Inclusion of Individuals with Disabilities

15 Apr 2013


Following Yachad’s North American Inclusion Month (NAIM) in February, 30 synagogues coast to coast are recipients of the Inclusive Synagogue Award, presented in response to a challenge from Yachad to synagogues and temples throughout North America to increase their Inclusion of individuals with disabilities.

Yachad | Jewish Disabilities Inclusion, the flagship program of the Orthodox Union’s National Jewish Council for Disabilities (NJCD), provides unique social, educational and recreational programs for individuals with learning, developmental and physical disabilities with the goal of their Inclusion in the total life of the Jewish community.

As part of Yachad’s challenge, an inclusion survey was developed and distributed by the NAIM coordinators; the synagogues received the award based on their survey responses. Each of the award winners received a plaque.

“Yachad’s mission is not only to include individuals with disabilities and challenges into the Jewish community but to raise the awareness of the responsibility of the Jewish community to include all members of their congregation, regardless of the challenges these individuals may face,” explained Batya Jacob, director of The International Jewish Resource Center for Inclusion and Special Education, a division of Yachad, an agency of the OU.

“With this in mind, Yachad works with synagogues and temples throughout North America to build a welcoming and non-restrictive environment in the place where Jewish life centers in each community, that is, the synagogue. We are pleased to recognize these thirty communities which are actively involved in inclusion of all members of their synagogues and hope to be able to add additional shuls in the coming years.”

Areas that were surveyed were physical plant (lighting, Braille signage, doors wide enough to fit a wheelchair, preferential seating); prayer services (ASL interpreted services, Braille or large print prayer books and the Five Books of Moses; use of Power Point Megillat Esther at Purim); youth programs (inclusive teen synagogue services, inclusive childcare, sensory room); and synagogue mission (inclusion committee, statement of inclusion on the membership application).

Synagogues were encouraged to share what they are currently doing to include all members of their community, regardless of challenges these individuals may have. At the same time, Yachad worked with synagogues to set up new inclusion committees and to help them increase the opportunities for their members within their synagogue.

Synagogues that received the 2013 Award:

California: Beth Jacob Congregation, Beverly Hills; Congregation Beth Israel, Berkeley; Bnai David-Judea, Los Angeles; Chevra Thilim, San Francisco

Colorado: BMH-BJ: The Denver Synagogue

Connecticut: Beth David, West Hartford

District of Columbia: Ohev Shalom-The National Synagogue

Florida: Temple Beth Israel, Sunrise

Illinois: Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob, Skokie

Massachusetts: Congregation Shaarei Tefillah, Newton Centre

Maryland: Ner Tamid Greenspring Valley, Baltimore; Bnei Jacob Shaarei Zion Congregation, Baltimore

Minnesota: Bet Shalom Congregation, Minnetonka; Darchei Noam, St. Louis Park

New Jersey: Ahavas Achim, Highland Park; Young Israel of East Brunswick; Mt. Freedom Jewish Center; Congregation Ahawas Achim Bnei Jacob and David, West Orange

New York: Great Neck Synagogue; Congregation Toras Emes of Staten Island; Shaarei Torah Orthodox Congregation of Syracuse, Dewitt; Congregation Shearith Israel, New York; Congregation Beth Shalom, Rochester

Ohio: Young Israel of Greater Cleveland, Beachwood; Green Road Synagogue, Beachwood; Heights Jewish Center, University City

Pennsylvania: Lower Merion Synagogue, Bala Cynwyd; Congregation Beth Hamedrosh, Wynnewood

Tennessee: Sherith Israel, Nashville

Contact Yachad at 212-613-8127 or{encode=”mailto:batyaj@ou.org” title=” batyaj@ou.org”} to learn how to make your synagogue friendlier and more accessible to all members of your congregation.

OU | Enhancing Jewish Life