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New, Vibrant, and All-Inclusive: by Vivian Bass

Calling our RespectAbility4All Extended Family to attention!

RespectAbility staff and Fellows celebrating Rosh Hashanah with cookies from Sunflower Bakery

RespectAbility staff and Fellows celebrating Rosh Hashanah with cookies from Sunflower Bakery sent over by Vivian Bass

RespectAbility4All’s inaugural Shabbat Smile leading into 5779 is . . . new, vibrant — and all-inclusive . . .

As with the New Year shofar’s four different calls, each blast echoing divergent rhythms and patterns in our daily life, four of RespectAbility’s new initiatives are `echoed’ at this time. Each solo shofar blast is unique. Yet the sequence of its blasts together magnify the impact, strength, and integrity of inclusion. This symbolizes RespectAbility’s unique and inclusive work.

headshot of Vivian Bass smiling at the camera with long hair color photo

Vivian Bass

First amongst our four renewals is the ‘refreshing’ of RespectAbility4All’s weekly Shabbat Smile e-mail. Commencing herein, we will share writings written by invited guest contributors who are prominent in the area of disabilities advocacy, representing all denominations and voices. Adhering to RespectAbility’s guiding theme “Nothing about us without us,” our weekly contributors will share their expertise on matters related to Jewish people with disabilities and their families in the U.S., Israel and the global community.

Second:  We are excited to share that this week RespectAbility concluded data collection for a national survey on Disability Inclusion in the Jewish Community. We gathered data from over 2,800 respondents nationwide and look forward to sharing results with you! Todah Rabah, thanks, to those of you who completed the survey.

Third: This week also marked the unfurling of RespectAbility’s seminal, collaborative work supporting the Latinx disability community. Yesterday’s attendees at the National Press Club first learned of our free resource: Planear para el éxito: Abogar por su hija o hijo con una discapacidad (Planning for Success: Advocating for your child with a disability). Co-authored by Dr. Victor Pineda (World Enabled), Stephanie Farfan (RespectAbility staffperson), Edith Espiritu (Fiesta Educativa), and Paola Vergara Acevedo (RespectAbility volunteer), this resource offers a toolkit in Spanish. Of note, ~227,700 Latino adult Jews reside in the U.S. (2016) and ~a half million Jews reside in Latin American countries worldwide, which thus makes this directly relevant to advancing inclusion in our Jewish community.

Fourth:  Commencing this week, eleven new fellows (with disabilities and without) joined RespectAbility’s esteemed National Leadership Program. Selected from a competitive pool of excelling candidates, our culturally, religiously, and sexually diverse fellows are working with staff in one of three departments (Policy/Jobs, Communications, and Development/Inclusive Philanthropy). This new cohort brings an infusion of fresh perspectives, talents, and skills to RespectAbility. Ultimately their experience will be pivotal as they seek employment and/or advanced education, bringing the disability lens to their professional careers.

At Rosh Hashanah, Moses — who himself had a disability — communicates: “the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart . . . .” (Deut. 30:14). Through our new Shabbat Smile, RespectAbility4All aims to share your thoughts through your hearts and your teachings.

RespectAbility’s four new vibrant initiatives, commencing with the beginning of the Year 5779, can be aligned with counting the seeds of the pomegranate. Like counting these seeds, we will quantify and reflect upon our deeds, orchestrating words and actions during the upcoming year to ensure safe, dignified, and vibrant lives for all people with disabilities.

Awaiting the shofar’s sweet sounds, we wish you and those dear to you a Shana Tova u’m’tuka!

Shabbat Shalom!


Meet the Author

Vivian G. Bass

Vivian G. Bass is an Executive Committee Member of RespectAbility and Co-Chairs its global Jewish Inclusion work. She is the CEO Emeritus of Jewish Foundation for Group Homes (JFGH), the Immediate Past Board Chair of Jewish Women International (JWI) and holds lay leadership roles in numerous other Jewish and secular organizations.

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