Yachad’s North American Inclusion Month (NAIM) A Great Success

12 Feb 2010


When Yachad/National Jewish Council for Disabilities (NJCD) designated February 2010 as North American Inclusion Month (NAIM), it had no way of gauging how responsive communities around North America would be towards its initiative emphasizing including those with disabilities in the Jewish community.

Well, the numbers are in, and they’re looking good – well over 200 synagogues and schools in the United States and Canada signed on to sponsor and host events such as Shabbatons, scholar-in-residence weekends and activities, and the month isn’t over yet. In fact, there was such an enthusiastic response that many NAIM events have spilled over into March. Synagogues, schools, and community centers can still contact Yachad to find out about hosting such an event in their area.

Dr. Michelle Orgel, NAIM Project Coordinator and Yachad Director of Family and Clinical Services, declared, “The Jewish communal response to NAIM has been overwhelming. Every day, more and more communities are inquiring on how they can get involved and with our support are planning amazing programs to help bring awareness to their constituents about the importance of making sure all Jews are included within all facets of Jewish life. The response has been so huge that we have pushed many of the NAIM programs to early March!”

She continued, “I’ve received so many e-mails and phone calls from places all over the U.S. and Canada telling me that they planned NAIM events and are excited about the mission, and some of the communities were not even on our radar. This is how we know that we are truly reaching the Jewish community at large.”

Some of the NAIM activities include:

• Our Way for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing’s Power Point presentation of Megillat Esther on February 27-28, which allows for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, visually impaired, or learning disabled to have an easily readable format to follow along with a synagogue’s Megillah reading;

• An inclusive Shabbat and Melave Malka in Chicago featuring Judge Dan Butler on February 12-13, a renowned judge and an inspiring and powerful speaker, speaking on “Building an Inclusive Jewish Community,” about his own life story and powerful message of including those with disabilities in Jewish communal life; and

• Jason and Emily Lieberman will speak at Robert M. Beren Academy in Houston on Friday, February 26, and speak at synagogues in the area over Shabbat, February 27, about his work advocating for those with disabilities and share his own experience growing up as a member of that community.

• Dr. Jeff Lichtman, Director of Yachad/National Jewish Council for Disabilities (NJCD),will keynote a Conference in South Florida. The conference is part of Special Needs Family Day presented by Yachad and the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County Department of Special Needs. It will be held on Sunday, February 14, 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the JARC, 21160 95th Ave. in South Boca Raton.

Other events include rabbis speaking of the importance of inclusion of those with disabilities in their Shabbat sermons; material handed out to students about inclusion and its relevance to the weekly Torah Portion; and schools creating workshops on sensitivity-training for their students.

Participating communities include Teaneck and Englewood in New Jersey; Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania; Houston and Dallas in Texas; Phoenix, Arizona; and Calgary, Montreal, and Toronto in Canada, among others.

For more information on NAIM and about how to host an event in your community, contact Dr. Michelle Orgel, Yachad’s Director of Family and Clinical Services, at 212-613-8172 or orgelm@ou.org.