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Jewish Inclusion

Vivian Bass: The Powerful and Necessary Bonds Between Nonprofit Staff and Board Members

Vivian Bass with RespectAbility Staff and Fellows in front of the RespectAbility banner

Vivian Bass with RespectAbility Staff and Fellows

Rockville, Maryland, Oct. 8 – After a successful career of more than 40 years as a nonprofit CEO, Vivian Bass, currently a board member of RespectAbility, visited the Fellows of RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program.  She shared her knowledge about nonprofit boards and gave advice on how to build better relationships between staff and board members.

As the former CEO of the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes, she has contributed greatly to the disability community, so it was only natural that she was one of our speakers. As young professionals, we still are navigating the workforce, struggling with networking and negotiating workplace conflicts. According to Bass, there are five characteristics that strengthen the bond between staff and board members in a nonprofit: mutual respect, no surprises, transparency, accountability and partnership. [continue reading…]

Webinar: “RespectAbility 2018 National Jewish Disability Inclusion Survey”

Featuring Special Guests Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, RespectAbility President and Meagan Buren, RespectAbility Pollster

Read the webinar transcript
Download the accessible PowerPoint
Watch the webinar on YouTube with live embedded captions


Our speakers were RespectAbility’s President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi and its Pollster, Meaghan Buren. Mizrahi is a national leader in disability advocacy. Buren is a pollster who has led multiple national polls on a variety of topics, including disability and Jewish issues.

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Shabbat Smile 5779, Volume 3 – A Leap Of Faith by Geoffrey W. Melada

Hillel students meet with activist and community organizer Ola Ojewumi at the 2017 Ruderman Inclusion Summit

Hillel students meet with activist and community organizer Ola Ojewumi at the 2017 Ruderman Inclusion Summit (photo by Geoffrey Melada)

Three years ago this week, I took a leap of faith when I left behind a long career in journalism to become the communications director for Hillel International, the world’s largest Jewish campus organization.

I believe in Hillel’s mission, but I worried that leaving journalism meant the end of telling great human interest stories – stories about people who change, grow and overcome obstacles.

I was wrong.

Three years into my job, I find that these stories are all around me. You will probably not be surprised to learn, as a supporter of RespectAbility, that some of the most compelling Hillel stories involve disability inclusion. [continue reading…]

Webinar: “Saving Lives: A Conversation about Suicide Prevention in the Jewish Community”

Read the webinar transcript
Download the accessible PowerPoint
Watch the webinar on YouTube with live embedded captions


This webinar featured RespectAbility Board Member Linda Burger, MSSW and her colleague, Laurie Morgan Silver, LCSW. Burger is a staunch leader in Houston’s Jewish community, where she is the CEO of Jewish Family Service Houston (JFSH). Silver, a psychotherapist, serves as a consultant with JFSH, where she supports suicide prevention and aftercare and other mental health programs.

Jewish Family Service Houston has developed a number of mental health initiatives to address suicide prevention and aftercare in its community. During this webinar, our leaders reviewed the statistical context as well as the purpose and status of the Mental Health Let’s Talk About It programs and services.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and/or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting 741741.

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Poll: Most Jews Don’t Know Any Rabbis or Staff with Disabilities

New National Poll Released on Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Faith Communities Shows Concerns on Access to Healthcare, Education, Jobs, Fighting Stigmas and Jewish Inclusion

Ron Glancz, Vivian Bass, Lauren Appelbaum, Heidi Daroff, Dana Marlowe, Hillary Steen and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi

Ron Glancz, Vivian Bass, Lauren Appelbaum, Heidi Daroff, Dana Marlowe, Hillary Steen and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi on Jewish Disability Advocacy Day

Survey Responses – Jewish Respondents (PDF)
Survey Responses – People with Disabilities compared to People without Disabilities (PDF)

Los Angeles, Calif., Sept. 17 – More than 4000 respondents participated in the “RespectAbility 2018 Jewish Disability Inclusion Survey,” which focused on the inclusion of people with disabilities in faith communities in America. This includes more than 900 individuals who self-disclose that they are a person with a disability.

The Jewish respondents with disabilities point to a lack of people with disabilities in leadership roles as clergy or staff at Jewish institutions and do not fully feel welcomed to serve as leaders in lay positions in the Jewish community either. Only 15 percent of Jews with disabilities know of a person with a disability in leadership. Fewer than 10 percent of Jews without a disability connection know of a person with a disability in leadership. Only 18 percent of people with disabilities answer “yes” that they “feel that people with disabilities are encouraged to serve on the boards and committees of your faith-based institutions.”

“If you see it, you can be it – and today Jews with disabilities need more role models with disabilities in leadership in the Jewish community,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility. “Many also want to be recruited, trained and empowered to make the Jewish community stronger, just like anyone else.”

Steve Rakitt headshot

Steve Rakitt

Steve Rakitt, President of the Genesis Prize Foundation, added, “It is important that each of us – as participants and as leaders in the Jewish community – be open about our own disabilities.  The fact that most respondents cannot name a Jewish leader with a disability simply highlights that many disabilities are not visibly evident.  By modeling openness and candor, we can change the perception that being a Jewish leader and being a person with a disability are not mutually exclusive.” [continue reading…]

Shabbat Smile 5779, Volume 2 – by Rabbi Sid Schwarz

Rabbi Sid Schwartz headshot

Rabbi Sid Schwarz

14 September 2018/5 Tishrei 5779 – Years ago, I delivered a Yom Kippur sermon called “Healthy, Wealthy and Wise,” in which I challenged synagogues to pay more attention to those in our midst who were “none of the above.” I was pleased that, on the heels of my talk, many families in our congregation who were affected by disability came forward, willing to share with me why they identified so strongly with the sermon. This was good; why should people dealing with disabilities feel the need to hide their personal struggle or that of someone in their family?

It is precisely because our institutions tend to privilege the “abled” that we make people with disabilities feel invisible. Even if they do not experience outright exclusion due to lack of accessibility, many feel shunned when they do show up. Staying invisible may just be easier — but it doesn’t lessen the sense that the Jewish community is a private club catering to those who are indeed, “healthy, wealthy and wise.” [continue reading…]

Inaugural Shabbat Smile 5779

Calling our RespectAbility4All Extended Family to attention!

RespectAbility staff and Fellows celebrating Rosh Hashanah with cookies from Sunflower Bakery

RespectAbility staff and Fellows celebrating Rosh Hashanah with cookies from Sunflower Bakery sent over by Vivian Bass

RespectAbility4All’s inaugural Shabbat Smile leading into 5779 is . . . new, vibrant — and all-inclusive . . .

As with the New Year shofar’s four different calls, each blast echoing divergent rhythms and patterns in our daily life, four of RespectAbility’s new initiatives are `echoed’ at this time. Each solo shofar blast is unique. Yet the sequence of its blasts together magnify the impact, strength, and integrity of inclusion. This symbolizes RespectAbility’s unique and inclusive work. [continue reading…]

Youth with Disabilities Help Homeless, Seniors, Hungry and Local Parks

EDCJCC Summer of Service campers smiling

Summer of Service Campers

Washington, D.C., July 3, 2018 – Students with a wide variety of disabilities, including Autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, learning, attention, mental health and other disabilities are improving the lives of people in need in Washington, D.C. Through a program called “Summer of Service,” the teens are making food for people experiencing homelessness, sorting goods in food pantries, visiting senior citizens and improving area parks.

The program is a partnership between the Edlavitch DCJCC, which has more than 25 years of proven leadership in providing safe, outstanding volunteer service opportunities, and RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. The program, called “Summer of Service,” is a summer day camp filled with community service opportunities for Washington-area middle and high school students. It is open to students with all abilities as youth with and without disabilities are invited to participate in the inclusive, welcoming and successful program. [continue reading…]

Jewish People Invited to Give Opinions on Disability Issues

New Jewish Disability Inclusion Toolkit Offers Free Resources
Projects Made Possible by Itzhak Perlman, Genesis Foundation, JFN, ORLO and Beverly Foundations

Washington, D.C., June 25, 2018 – RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization that fights stigma and advances opportunities for people with disabilities, is requesting Jews to give their opinions on a wide range of issues impacting people with disabilities.

While the majority of people either have a disability or a loved one with a disability, people do not need to be personally connected to disability in order to have a valued opinion. The survey takes approximately 10 minutes to complete and you can win $250 for participating in it.

To give your opinions and do the survey, visit: www.surveymonkey.com/r/RAFaithInclusion.

While individual answers will be kept confidential, the overall results of this survey will be released nationally as a sounding board for dozens of Jewish and nonprofit organizations who are working on disability issues.

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Sulam to Honor RespectAbility for Inclusion Work at Annual Gala

Rockville, Maryland, May 29 – Sulam will recognize two community leaders for outstanding work as advocates for inclusion at its annual gala on June 3, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. ET at The Hotel at the University of Maryland in College Park. Both of these leaders share the vision of Sulam, which is to ensure that a high quality education is available to children in the Greater Washington area irrespective of their learning differences.

Headshot of Jennifer Mizrahi, smiling and facing the camera wearing a red blazer color photoJennifer Laszlo Mizrahi will accept the Sulam Advocacy Leadership Award on behalf of RespectAbility, a nonprofit fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. RespectAbility is at the forefront of providing tools and resources to Jewish organizations and others to enable them to welcome, respect, include and serve people with disabilities.

Amy Blum headshot

Amy Blum, Executive Director and COO of the National Gaucher Foundation, will be honored with the Sulam Founders Award. Blum, whose name has been synonymous with Sulam since its inception, is one of the organization’s original founders. Today she helps educate families touched by the rare metabolic disorder Gaucher, offering them empathy, advocacy and hope for a full life.

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