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RespectAbility Jewish team members with and without disabilities smile together with their arms around each other

Fighting Racism / Advancing Equity and Inclusion

I hope that you are staying safe and healthy. Before I begin our weekly exploration of Jewish disability inclusion, I must begin the Shabbat Smile by noting that this is a gut-wrenching time in our nation. We are all dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and massive job loss challenges. Now the uprisings taking place across America have illuminated the impact of racism on society. The recent murders of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and Breonna Taylor by Louisville Metro police are a reminder that key parts of our criminal justice system are broken. The false accusal of two Black men for the drowning of Alejandro Ripley, a nonverbal 9-year-old with Autism, offers another example of the harmful impact of discrimination.

These and other events reveal glaring and conspicuous inequality in America, and RespectAbility strongly condemns them. There is no greater Jewish value than standing with those who are oppressed in the pursuit of justice.

We must use this moment to recognize the pain of Black Americans and work together on fostering an environment of empathy and understanding. RespectAbility is committed to supporting our partners who are working tirelessly to dismantle systematic and structural racism to ensure that every citizen has an opportunity to move the country forward and live out their true potential.

As we support our allies in this critical work, we are grateful to announce that a coalition of nearly 40 Jewish organizations have joined with us to launch a great new Jewish Disability Access & Inclusion Training Program.

This series, which will run virtually from June 23 through August 11, is a collective virtual offering to the Jewish world so Jewish organizations can welcome, respect and include people with disabilities from all backgrounds in the important work that they do. People can choose from one or more sessions, or onboard all the learning so their organization can become fully inclusive of people with disabilities.

Does your synagogue or other Jewish organization wish to cosponsor?

While RespectAbility is organizing this training, we view this training series as a resource for the entire Jewish world as it strives to improve its inclusion of Jews with disabilities. As such, we are thrilled that so many Jewish organizations, large and small from all over the country, already have put their name on the series. A full list is available at the end of this email. We would love, however, for every Jewish organization in the country to sign on and take ownership.

The series is made possible by support from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles through a Cutting Edge Grant, The Diane & Guilford Glazer Philanthropies, The Charles & Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, The David Berg Foundation, the Stanford and Joan Alexander Foundation, Stanley & Joyce Black Family Foundation, and The Beverly Foundation. This means that there is absolutely no cost to our co-promoting partners.

Do you think your organization might wish to sign on?

Visit www.respectability.org/sponsorjewishwebinars. If you need any clarification, or have any questions as you are considering partnership, please email our associate for California and Jewish leadership, Joshua Steinberg, at JoshuaS@RespectAbility.org.

While partnership is only available to organizations, everyone is encouraged to participate, and learn how to become more inclusive. To register, please visit www.respectability.org/jewish-events.

Online Jewish Social Events for Jews with Disabilities

Looking for a community, connection, and togetherness? Join our virtual Schmooze event, or an online Shabbat dinner. For more information on this, and to always be kept abreast of the latest RespectAbility Jewish programs, please visit www.respectability.org/jewish-events. During the pandemic, we are building a virtual community of Jews with disabilities in Los Angeles and beyond and encourage you to join us. However, we hope it will be safe to have events in person before too long.

As we head into Shabbat, I encourage you all to stay safe, and practice good self-care. I also encourage you to reflect on the place that each and every one of us have in dismantling structural racism and other prejudice and drawing our nation closer to living out our ideals.

Shabbat Shalom,
Matan Koch
Director, RespectAbility California and Jewish Leadership


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

Matan Koch
Matan Koch

Matan A. Koch is the Director of RespectAbility California and Jewish Leadership at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. A longtime national leader in disability advocacy and a wheelchair user himself, he leads Project Moses, RespectAbility’s Los Angeles-based Jewish leadership project, and is also on the front lines in many other areas of RespectAbility’s work, including: disability inclusion in philanthropy and nonprofits, Jewish outreach and impact, leadership, legal affairs and our continuing Los Angeles expansion.

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