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Recruit, Accommodate and Promote Jewish Leaders with Disabilities

RespectAbility was thrilled that nearly 200 participants from six different countries including the United States, Canada, Israel, United Kingdom, Germany and Argentina registered to attend the informative and innovative webinar held on July 7th entitled `How to Recruit, Accommodate and Promote Jewish Leaders with Disabilities.” This session was the third in a series of seven such webinars generously funded by The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles through a Cutting Edge Grant, The Diane and Guilford Glazer Philanthropies, and The Charles & Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation among others. Additionally, nearly 45 local and national/international Jewish organizations are serving as co-promoters for this series.

As Co-Chair of RespectAbility’s Global Jewish Inclusion work, I was pleased and proud to serve as moderator for this stellar webinar in tandem with the superb panelists Lee Chertosky, and Lori Golden.

Lee Chernotsky is the Founder and Chief Encouragement Officer of ROSIES (Removing Obstacles, Supporting Innovation, Empowerment and Sustainability), which was founded with the mission to create and provide employment and jobs for people with disabilities in the Los Angeles Area. He referenced a Traditional Jewish Text which exemplifies the essence of this most remarkable organization as well as relaying his `pearls of wisdom’ to our session attendees …”Much can we learn from our teachers, more can be learned from our colleagues, most do we learn from our students.” Lee spoke about how these guiding principles of ROSIES could be emulated by colleagues in any community who share his passion. Promoting diverse abilities by Engaging ability/ies, Encouraging Initiatives and opportunities, and designing with diverse abilities and resources. Amongst Lee’s numerous Jewish volunteer leadership roles, he is a founding member of RespectAbility’s Los Angeles Advisory Council and played a pivotal role in welcoming and warmly hosting the LA staff for events, as well as during their transition into RespectAbility’s new West Coast operations.

Lori Golden of New York City, having a nonvisible disability, has worked at Ernst & Young LLP for over twenty years and currently serves as the firm’s Abilities Strategy Leader. She advises on initiatives to enhance accessibility in EY offices and educate staff on ability issues while creating new recruiting and employment models. Her insights from the corporate world can readily be implemented as best practices for Jewish organizations. She focused on the following key areas: Ensuring that recruiting reaches and works for candidates with disabilities, signaling disabilities in all that transpires; and providing the tools, environment, and supports so that people with disabilities can be successful. Additionally, Lori stressed the pivotal concepts of casting a wide net by targeting strategically; messaging the commitment and highlighting role models with disabilities; and providing the tools, supports and environment necessary to enable success. Lori began her engagement with RespectAbility when serving as a speaker at an empowerment training for Jewish women with disabilities in NYC.

Additionally, this webinar illustrated how dozens of Jews with disabilities are strengthening organizations and ultimately enriching the fabric of their Jewish Communities. Specifically highlighted were Marlee Matlin, Academy Award winning actress; Aaron Kaufman, Senior Legislative Associate for the Jewish Federations of North America; Matan Koch, Esq., Director of RespectAbility California and Jewish Leadership; and RespectAbility board member and lifelong disabilities advocate Neil Jacobson, founder of Abilicorps who appeared in the monumental documentary `Crip Camp.’

Well over 50% of RespectAbility’s staff and fellows/interns and more than 50% of the Board of Directors are persons with disabilities, both visible and nonvisible. With integrity and validation, all play a pivotal role via their respective positions in a most respectful and mutually beneficial manner. Thus, when a recent landmark study of over four thousand Jewish participants revealed that less than 1/3 of Jewish organizations and businesses are actually practicing the vital concept of inclusion (despite the fact that this topic was of paramount importance to them), an unprecedented, comprehensive series was created by RespectAbility to address this critical and unmet need.

Lastly, RespectAbility’s newest initiative, Project Moses was introduced at the conclusion of the webinar. Project Moses is a Los Angeles-based project designed to prepare Jewish leaders with disabilities to engage with Jewish organizations as a contributor or a leader, not only as a participant. Later this year, RespectAbility will be running a series of virtual trainings, targeted for the LA community, yet open to all Jewish adults with disabilities who have some collegiate or equivalent experience. Project Moses has been generously funded by The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles. Interested individuals should contact Matan Koch at matank@respectability.org.

If you missed the webinar, not to worry – the recording and transcript will be posted on Monday to RespectAbility’s website here. We hope you’ll join us for the remaining four webinars in the series – click the button below to register for them.

Shabbat Shalom!

Vivian Bass
RespectAbility Executive Committee Board Member


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

Vivian G. Bass
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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