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Teachable Moments for Classrooms during JDAIM and Beyond: by Meredith Polsky

Meredith Polsky smiling outside headshot. Text: Shabbat SmileThe Matan team is proud to recognize Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), by providing a free resource, which can be used year-round: Matan’s JDAIM lesson plans can be downloaded at matankids.org/jdaim-lesson-plans. These lesson plans are designed for use by congregational and Jewish day school educators. With these resources, any teacher can guide their students through important themes, interactive activities and meaningful Jewish discussions about disability. As importantly, the lessons serve as models for teachers to think about accessibility in all of their lesson planning going forward.

The lesson plans are divided into 3 sections: Kindergarten to 2nd grade, 3rd to 5th grade and Middle and High School. Each section contains various options so that an instructor can decide which is the best fit. Every lesson follows the same general format, which includes:

Big Ideas: These are listed so that the instructor can become familiar with the overall theme of the lesson.

Objectives: This is a list of things that an instructor can expect the children to know and understand at the end of the lesson.

Materials: Here the instructor will find a list of everything needed during the lesson, including which handouts need to be copied in advance. (Yes, we grant permission to copy them!)

Accessibility Considerations: It is likely that some students in any class have disabilities themselves, whether or not the instructor is aware of them. It is always important to think about the barriers that might exist, so that an instructor can make modifications in advance of the lesson. If the instructor finds that nobody requires the modifications, it is still important to model advance thinking about accessibility considerations.

Activities: This is where the instructor will find the actual lesson and how to implement it. Matan’s JDAIM Lesson Plans – again, lesson plans that work year-round – contain everything one would need, but of course the instructor’s own teaching style and relationship with the students are what will make the lessons successful!

We hope those who use our free resources have fun, and remember that anyone using them can reach out to us at any time as questions or concerns arise – also, we’d welcome your feedback!

Follow up Contact Information: Meredith Polsky at Meredith@matankids.org and/or Rabbi Ruti Regan at Ruti@matankids.org


Meredith Polsky founded Matan in 2000 and serves as Matan’s National Director of Institutes and Training. She is a nationally sought-after speaker on Jewish Special Education and holds Master’s degrees in Special Education and Clinical Social Work, as well as a graduate certificate in Early Intervention. Meredith is a 2017 Covenant Award recipient, and co-author of the award-winning children’s books I Have a Question about Death, I Have a Question about Divorce, and I Have a Question about Cancer (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively).

In our weekly Shabbat Smiles, RespectAbility welcomes a wide spectrum of voices. The views expressed in each Shabbat Smile are those of the guest contributor.

The Shabbat Smile is curated and edited by Debbie Fink, RespectAbility’s Director of Community Outreach and Impact and Vivian Bass, RespectAbility Executive Committee Board Member. If you would like to write a Shabbat Smile, please email Debbie at DebbieF@RespectAbility.org.

Meet the Author

Debbie Fink
Debbie Fink

Debbie Fink is Director of Community Outreach & Impact for RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. In addition to this role, she was Project Director for the unprecedented Women’s Disability Leadership, Inclusion & Advocacy Series; and is responsible for RespectAbility’s Volunteer Corps and Jewish Inclusion Project. Ms. Fink brings more than 15 years of diverse leadership experience in public health, education and arts programming to serve RespectAbility’s mission. Fink has a lifetime commitment to enabling people with disabilities to have a better future and is passionate about the constructive impact volunteers can make in the world. To reach her, email DebbieF@respectability.org.

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