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Genesis Prize Foundation, Jewish Funders Network, ORLO and Beverly Foundation to Support RespectAbility

Funding will Expand Inclusion of Jews with Disabilities, Fight Stigmas and Advance Opportunities

headshot of Itzhak Perlman holding his violin in front of him

Itzhak Perlman

Rockville, Md., June 14 – RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, is very grateful to announce that it has been chosen for a Breaking Barriers Award from The Genesis Prize Foundation and Jewish Funders Network to promote inclusion of people with disabilities in Jewish life.

The award is part of a matching grant program created in honor of 2016 Genesis Prize Laureate Itzhak Perlman, a world-renowned violinist and activist for people with disabilities. Perlman regifted the funds to promote Jewish inclusion for those with disabilities, as well as to support young people pursuing careers in classical music.

As part of receiving the Breaking Barriers Award, RespectAbility committed to match all funds received. Two new donors to RespectAbility are matching this gift: Ahuva and Aaron Orlofsky; and Beverly Foundation.

“We are delighted to support innovation and outreach to advance inclusion of people with disabilities,” said Amy Rosenblatt Lui, executive director of Beverly Foundation. “I want to give thanks to Itzhak Perlman for his vision who got the ball rolling on this.”

Aaron and Ahuva Orlofsky posed with their three children - teenage girl, boy and girl, all smiling for the camera

Orlofsky Family

Philanthropists Ahuva and Aaron Orlofsky also are donating to RespectAbility for the first time as part of this matching grant award.

“We are honored to be a part of this effort to ensure that all Jewish people have the opportunity to be fully included in Jewish life,” Aaron Orlofsky, who also recently joined RespectAbility’s board, said. “RespectAbility is on the front lines in the battle to ensure that Jewish institutions are fully welcoming of, and accessible to, Jews with disabilities and their loved ones.”

RespectAbility was founded in 2013 by three Jewish philanthropists: Donn Weinberg, Shelley Cohen and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi. In addition to its Jewish inclusion work, RespectAbility currently its focusing on narrative change in Hollywood and jobs for people with disabilities through a Community of Practice, as well as furthering inclusive philanthropy.

“RespectAbility is honored to have been chosen for this Breaking Barriers Award and to be supported by Beverly Foundation and ORLO,” RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi said. “This money will not only support our Jewish inclusion work but also will enable us to ensure our workforce and Hollywood projects are able to have a Jewish lens as well.”

Because of this support, RespectAbility will be able to conduct a survey of Jews from around the country – both those with and without disabilities – regarding their experiences about the inclusion of Jews with disabilities in Jewish life. In a similar poll conducted by RepectAbility in 2014 with 2607 Jews, 20 percent of those with disabilities indicated they were unable to participate fully in Jewish life because of their disability, which usually leads to a lack of any future involvement. This new research will allow the community to reflect upon any changing trends and will illustrate updated attitudes, opinions and practices. Pollster Meagan Buren once again will lead the research.

The funding also will support involving Jewish organizations in our nascent Communities of Practice (COP). These COPs will create and implement strategic plans to reduce stigmas and expand the employment of people with disabilities in various fields like religious life, entertainment, healthcare and education. RespectAbility will invite Jewish institutions including federations, synagogues, schools and camps to become involved.

Current projects such as RespectAbility’s Jewish inclusion social media streams, weekly “Shabbat Smile” e-newsletter, webinars and Fellowship program also will continue due to this support.

Breaking Barriers Award

A total of 22 organizations received a Breaking Barriers Award, which resulted in $3.17 million in new funds dedicated to this philanthropic area. The initiative’s review committee received 54 applications representing more than 70 unique funders. The 22 winning recipients represent 19 cities across the United States.

Some of Itzhak Perlman’s Genesis Prize award was directed to a competition administered by Matan (an affiliate of the United Way) to distribute grants for organizations supporting those with disabilities in Israel, leading to nearly two million dollars being distributed in Israel.

Meet the Author

Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the VP, Communications and Entertainment & News Media, of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so all people with disabilities can fully participate in every aspect of community. As an individual with an acquired nonvisible disability – Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy – she works at the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. She regularly conducts trainings on the why and how to be more inclusive and accessible for entertainment executives throughout the industry. Appelbaum partners with studios, production companies and writers’ rooms to create equitable and accessible opportunities to increase the number of people with lived disability experience throughout the overall story-telling process. These initiatives increase diverse and authentic representation of disabled people on screen, leading to systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities. She has consulted on more than 100 TV episodes and films with A&E, Bunim-Murray Productions, NBCUniversal, Netflix, ViacomCBS, and The Walt Disney Company, among others. She represents RespectAbility on the CAA Full Story Initiative Advisory Council, Disney+ Content Advisory Council, MTV Entertainment Group Culture Code and Sundance Institute’s Allied Organization Initiative. She is the author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit and the creator of an innovative Lab Program for entertainment professionals with disabilities working in development, production and post-production. She is a recipient of the 2020 Roddenberry Foundation Impact Award for this Lab. To reach her, email LaurenA@RespectAbility.org.

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