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JDP for September 10, 2021

I hope that everyone had a lovely Rosh Hashanah, and especially that you were able to find the access that you needed. In fact, if you had an access experience, positive or negative, RespectAbility would love to hear about it. Send your accounts to JoshuaS@RespectAbility.org. For those still looking for an accessible experience for next week, we have made some additions to our accessible high holiday services list, so please check it out. Also, if you find merit in all of our work, from high holiday accessibility, to resources like the list, to this newsletter, not to mention our amazing work in the world of entertainment and policy to make the world a little bit better place, please consider a visit to our Donate website to make a little New Year’s pledge.

Nicole Olarsch smiling headshot

Nicole Olarsch

We find ourselves now moving through the 10 days of repentance, which will culminate in Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is not an easy time for anyone, but it can provide particular challenges to many of us with disabilities. By now, I hope most of our readers know that if fasting is medically dangerous for you, Jewish law in fact prohibits you from endangering yourself by fasting. This is important to internalize and to act upon. I encourage all of us to read a reflection by Jewish Inclusion Fellow Nicole Olarsch explaining the difficulty of being unable to fast. Nicole offers some ideas of spiritual disciplines that work for her, but if you have a great spiritual discipline that works for you, please feel free to share it with us. In the lead up to Yom Kippur next year, we will share “Different Strategies For Those Who Cannot Fast.”

Fasting is only one of the areas where disability can make the holidays challenging. The liturgy, the themes, and the practice can all be challenging for individuals living with depression or anxiety, like myself. A second piece today, which combines an old work of mine with new thoughts of Nicole’s, help us explore those questions.

On a different note, the school year is starting up again and students across America are returning to in-person learning. As such, we wanted to celebrate the inclusion work of SULAM and the CES Jewish Day School in Rockville, Maryland, where RespectAbility was founded. There was a great piece in eJewishPhilanthropy this week that highlighted some of what they are doing.

I don’t wish people an easy fast. If your fast is easy, then I suggest that you look for a more meaningful spiritual practice. I suggest the same if your fast is too difficult. What I will wish you is a meaningful, reflective Yom Kippur, a brilliant inscription sealed in the Book of Life, and a year of blessings.

G’mar Chatimah Tova,

Matan Koch
Vice President for Workforce, Leadership, and Faith Programs, RespectAbility

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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