The Faith Inclusion and Belonging team is pleased to welcome three new apprentices to our team! They will be working on leadership skills and contributing to the growth of the department as we continue to develop our multifaith space. Below, read more about them!
Greetings! My name is Kylee Tyndall and I am excited to be a Faith, Belonging, and Inclusion Apprentice in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Spring 2023! My passion for disability rights was ignited through my education. I went to an inclusive elementary school for deaf and hard of hearing kids. As a form of accommodations, all students had weekly lessons in ASL to help shrink that communication barrier. Ten-year-old me learned that it is not hard to make life more accessible for the people around you.
My education after elementary school started to highlight a lot about inaccessibility within the education system. As a high schooler, I started to develop a passion for disability studies when I realized disability was being left out of most conversations around privilege and oppression. I am currently fostering this passion as a Junior at Syracuse University. I am majoring in Psychology and Women and Gender Studies with a minor in Disability Studies.
In summer of 2022, I worked as a part-time caregiver for two separate individuals with disabilities. These positions increased my awareness because they allowed me to have conversations about inaccessibility with individuals who live with these obstacles that are largely placed onto them by an ableist society. Following my undergraduate studies, I am hoping to pursue a Psychology Doctorate degree, with a focus in pediatric therapy. Alongside my graduate study I aim to continue my work to foster change and awareness for disability and gender rights in the nonprofit sector.
In the future, I see myself as a child trauma therapist and a human rights advocate focusing on gender and disability rights. Reforms in educational systems are an area of passion for me because I feel that it is where a lot of prejudices can be changed before they are created. Through my current education I am still unlearning misconceptions placed onto minority groups. I recently took a religion and diversity class, where I realized I did not know a lot about religion or about how religion and disability intersect. I am currently taking another religion class at Syracuse. I am hoping my work in the Faith, Inclusion and Belonging department of RespectAbility will give me a deeper understanding of the intersections of disability and religion. I know this understanding will only enhance how I approach my therapy practice and advocacy work in a more individualized way.
During this opportunity, I am hoping to make a difference in the accessibility to religion on a local scale. I recently went abroad to London and noticed a lot of accessibility issues and teachers were leaving disabilities out of most conversations about minority groups, or barely brushing over it. With this in mind, I have shifted a lot of focus specifically to the disabled community because no one deserves to be left out of conversations about social justice.
Hello! My name is Rebecca Woolfe, and I am thrilled to begin my work here as a Faith Inclusion and Belonging Apprentice at RespectAbility. As I was reflecting on what drew me to RespectAbility, I realized that my interfaith and inclusion interest started when I was a college student. Thinking about my experiences at that time, I realize how much diversity was valued, including religious/spiritual, cultural, gender, etc. Looking back, I think that being in such an environment encouraged me to explore and learn about various groups by having honest conversations and developing relationships with people of different backgrounds. I attended Interfaith ‘Lunch and Learn’ events and different religious services and holiday celebrations. I then decided to take courses in religion including Bible studies, Hinduism, and Buddhism. When I lived overseas, I also chose to participate in different types of faith communities and practices. I had a foundation of Judaism when I was growing up and eventually developed a stronger Jewish identity while living in foreign countries due to a deep need for community inclusion and belonging. I have a greater understanding for the need for inclusion after being welcomed by all the religious communities I joined. I still consider myself open to learn from diverse traditions and have incorporated aspects of several faith groups I have joined. When my friends and I created our own Jewish community group, we intentionally focused on the principles of inclusion, welcoming people of different faith backgrounds, ethnicities, sexual orientations, etc.
My particular area of interest in disability advocacy is related to mental health. From personal experience with a close family member, I have come to understand the need for mental health inclusion/acceptance, and also the important role that faith communities can have in mental health. While living overseas, I got involved with several advocacy organizations in China and Hong Kong, and learned about improving education and support/resources specifically concerning mental health issues. In cultures with even greater disability stigma, I was pleasantly surprised to find such groups advocating and bringing these issues out into the open for the public and media. I hope to contribute to the faith inclusion team by adding perspectives from my international experience and helping to develop more collaboration and partnerships in Jewish and multi-faith inclusion.
Hello! My name is Noah Strauss and my pronouns are they/them. I am excited to be an Apprentice with the Faith Inclusion and Belonging team at RespectAbility, expanding the work of putting disability justice at the heart of faith communities. I am an organizer, educator, and writer, and a graduate student in Judaism and Human Rights at Gratz College. I reside in Philadelphia. I am interested in pursuing a rabbinate focused on chronic illness, Deafness, and disability.
I developed and implemented an ASL curriculum at Jewish Children’s Folkshul where I’ve taught 4th and 5th grade for five years. I am in the second year of the Inclusion Specialist program with Jewish Learning Venture. I helped to create the National Access & Disability Justice team at Never Again Action, which develops guides for accessible in person and virtual actions, facilitates workshops on accessibility and disability justice, and hosts disabled speakers. In 2021, we hosted a Jewish community screening of Crip Camp followed by a Q&A with Denise and Neil Jacobson. I have also consulted on accessibility for Jewish Voice for Peace and Tzedek Lab.
This past summer I interned as Ma’avir Fellow with the National Havurah Committee. I am an alum of Bend the Arc’s Jeremiah community organizing fellowship, Repair the World’s Service Corps, and Mayyim Hayyim’s Rising Tide mikveh guide training. I dream of creating accessible mikveh. My work has been featured in Jewish Currents, New Voices, Lilith Magazine, The Forward, and Jewschool. My writing about disability is featured on Disability Visibility.
I taught a class through Hebrew College called Plagues & Prophets in Performance, focused on chronically ill and disabled characters as prophetic figures during plagues. The course included study of Angels in America, Rent, The Normal Heart, and the book of Jeremiah. I also am creating a multi-faith community in ASL using a viral disability justice-centered TikTok account. It hosts virtual live Shabbat, havdalah, and other holiday services.
In 2019, my best friend, the rabbi Emet Tauber, passed away from complications of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS). A mutual aid network formed around Emet. It was made up predominantly of queer & trans disabled Jewish people. At any given time, there were at least five or six other Jewish folks with EDS in the room. It was a braintrust of disability and chronic illness, based in cross disability solidarity. It was a glimpse of a new and different kind of world, a vision for systems of care. It is this glimpse of a different world that sustains me and guides my work through these pandemic years. Covenantal communities can model a new social contract based in care work.