Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month

Our congregant and community leader, Judith Creed, shares JChai resources for adults and a message about the importance of inclusion for Jews with disabilities.

When my son, Jonah, was born in 1973 and diagnosed as being disabled, the picture for people with special needs was pretty bleak. There were no social programs, synagogues did not accept special needs children in their schools, and we all were worried about the future of our kids. In 1987 a group of parents and myself got together and we opened our first group home—that would include Shabbat dinners, holidays, keeping  a kosher-style kitchen and would teach our children how to live independently.

Now JCHAI has become an organization that ensures that all facets of members’ lives allow them to live as happy and productive members of the Jewish community.  We teach them to take care of themselves and their apartments.  We help them find and maintain jobs.  We teach them how to use public transportation.  We coordinate social activities for them and teach them how to make their own plans in the community for their free time as well.

And most importantly, JCHAI is the only organization in Philadelphia that, along with residential services, provides Jewish adults with disabilities the means to continue to live their lives as Jews.  This aspect of JCHAI becomes even more meaningful in the face of statistics that show that Jews with disabilities, and their families, feel rejected by the Jewish community.  And that only 25% of Jews with disabilities feel that their religion is “very important” in their lives. 

Interestingly, a recent poll shows that for Jews aged 18-29, 88% of them feel strongly that Jewish events and organizations should be as welcoming and inclusive of people with disabilities as everyone else.   In fact, of all issues on which they were surveyed – Israel, raising their children Jewish — they ranked inclusion as the most important to them.|911|920086|5&digest=coNz%2bugy4uWePo8CEsZm0Q&sysid=1
Including Jews with disabilities in our community is important for all of us.  We will all benefit from the richer community that we create by celebrating contributions from everyone who wants to be a Jew.