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Why I Chose RespectAbility

Nicole Olarsch smiling headshot

Nicole Olarsch

My Jewish experience was challenging in college. Something I was once so passionate about and looked forward to on a weekly basis slowly started to become something I dreaded. Due to the nature of my disabilities, the traditional ways of doing Jewish activities and prayers didn’t work for me. To be more specific, Friday night Shabbat services were held upstairs in the Hillel building. However, since I cannot walk up stairs and use leg braces, I was unable to participate in those services. As a result, Hillel moved them downstairs to the living room area. It was pretty clear to the group why services had been changed – I walked into the building in these big, bulky leg braces, and services were moved downstairs. Some people weren’t happy about the change. Sometimes, people get stuck in traditions that they know and love, while forgetting that we can still make changes to be more inclusive.

During my senior year of undergrad, I received an email from Jake Stimell, who works at RespectAbility and runs the Speaker’s Bureau. Jake had gone to the same college as me, and graduated a year prior, so it was wonderful to hear from him about the Apprenticeship opportunity! While I had known about RespectAbility’s work for quite some time, I wasn’t aware of the incredible opportunity that is the National Leadership Program. When I found out about it, I knew it would be a perfect opportunity to make a difference addressing issues like I experienced at Hillel.

While I have been in this role, RespectAbility gave me the opportunity to meet and connect with some wonderful people that I otherwise never would have met. I know for a fact that when my Apprenticeship ends, I’ll miss the weekly meetings with the Jewish team and the other members.

Some specific skills and tasks that I have really enjoyed during my time as a Jewish Inclusion Apprentice have been performing outreach to faith institutions, attending faith-based inclusion meetings, events and workshops, and fundraising work pertaining to faith-based inclusion like grant and proposal writing and prospect research. I have gained a level of confidence when it comes to reaching out to others, especially faith based institutions, which is something I struggled with a lot prior to the Apprenticeship.

Whether you want to contribute to your local Jewish community, or facilitate national change, being a Jewish Inclusion Apprentice at RespectAbility equips you for these opportunities. Apprentices have the opportunity to work collaboratively with all departments at RespectAbility. The Jewish Inclusion Apprenticeship is a fantastic opportunity that will allow you to enhance the skills you already have, all while learning new skills and receiving training that will help you advance your career, whatever that may be!

In fact, a former Jewish Inclusion Apprentice, Alex Howard, says that, “I loved my time with RespectAbility. Being a part of the RespecAbility Apprenticeship really gave me a great sense of community, not just to Judaism but to the disability community as a whole. I really appreciate everything RespectAbility has done for me and I hope to continue to help them with projects as they do for me.”

If you think this Apprenticeship could be right for you, or someone else you know, check out more details on our website, and please reach out to us! I promise you, becoming a part of the RespectAbility team is one of the best decisions I’ve made!

Meet the Author

Nicole Olarsch

Nicole Olarsch graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in the Spring of 2021, with a BA in Sociology and Gender and Sexuality Studies. She was involved in the building of a new club on campus, The Deaf and Disabled Student Union.

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