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Jewish Disability Perspectives Introduction for May 20

Shelly Christensen smiling headshot

Shelly Christensen

I’ve been counting the days since I embarked on my new journey at RespectAbility. Today is Day 20. Four whole weeks; time has flown. I’m happy to report that I feel more confident and am settling into my new routine. It has been wonderful getting to know our Staff and Apprentices and bringing my background, knowledge, and experience to RespectAbility’s mission.

Earlier this week, Matan Koch, Senior Vice President of Strategic Change, and I represented RespectAbility at the Network of Jewish Human Services Agencies Conference. The conference reminded me of my roots. More than twenty years ago, I began my career in disability and mental health inclusion in Jewish social services. The conference was a reunion of colleagues and friends and a reminder of how much the human service sector has accomplished over the years.

As I listened to presenters in the disability workshops at the NJHSA conference describe opportunities for people with disabilities to flourish through support, employment, and inclusion, I noted the passage of time. Comparing the early days of disability and mental health inclusion to the present showed a journey of letting go of a fixed mindset of doing FOR people with disabilities to a growth mindset of self-determination, individual decision-making, and the dignity of risk to achieve life goals.

It’s important in any journey, personal and communal, to stop for a moment to recognize and celebrate where that journey has led while understanding that there is more room for growth. More time, effort, collaboration, money, and resources are required to remove obstacles to belonging. The journey continues.

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Meet the Author

Shelly Christensen

Shelly Christensen is the Senior Director of Faith Inclusion and Belonging at RespectAbility.

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