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How Mechilah Can Give Us a Model to Go Forward on Inclusion

Many of us spend time leading up to the high holidays helping congregations and organizations prepare to fully respectfully welcome Jews with disabilities into our communities and rituals. Most of the training is good, and the organizations are almost always earnest. Hence, we can get really optimistic and expect that everything needed will be implemented. And yet, as much as we are excited about the idea of how inclusive things will be, we must also always be aware that they will not be perfect every time.

When Yom Kippur ends, and people start taking stock of the inclusion efforts at their synagogue for the holidays, there will be stories, probably at every congregation in the world, where inclusion did not happen the way we might have wanted.  There will be mix-ups, misses and unanticipated situations.

The question is not how to avoid those, because I believe that our tradition teaches us the folly of expecting perfection.  The question is rather, where do we go from here.

I’ve been in a lot of meetings where organizers are reflecting on past events, and been privy to a lot of anguished sharing sessions where participants with disabilities painfully recount things that went wrong.  Too often, the one side is busy defending the adequacy of intention, while the other side has determined that they have suffered at the hands of an organization incompetent at best and indifferent at worst.  Battle lines are drawn.  Hurts rage.

Read more at the LA Jewish Journal

Meet the Author

Matan Koch

Matan A. Koch is Vice President for Workforce, Leadership, and Faith Programs at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. A longtime national leader in disability advocacy and a wheelchair user himself, he is a graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School. Koch oversees RespectAbility’s workforce engagement and education portfolio, advocacy pipeline including, speakers Bureau and civic engagement initiatives, and our Jewish and other faith-based programs. He also leads RespectAbility’s California office.

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