Move From Intention to Action



In Judaism, intention (kavanah) is an essential component of meaningful action. Kavanah comes from the Hebrew root meaning to direct, intend, or focus. Living a meaningful Jewish life involves combining our actions with the intention we bring to those actions.
 
Removing the Stumbling Block intention action disability inclusionRabbi Yaakov Yitzhak of Pshi’scha, taught, “Good intentions alone, if not accompanied by action, are without value, as it is the action which makes the intentions so profound.”

Nowhere is it more essential to back up our words with action than with the inclusion of individuals with disabilities. Each of us must move from intention to action.  

Some additional thoughts to get you started:

For your congregation - Ten Steps to Make Your Congregation More Inclusive

For your classroom - Teaching the Difference Between Fairness and Equality

For your family - Teach Your Children to be Accepting of Disabilities

For you -  Inclusion is NOT social action



BlogElul 2014 Removing the Stumbling Block
This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 
 

 

What Are Your Hopes for the Year Ahead?




What Are Your Hopes for the Year Ahead? Removing the Stumbling Block

The New Year is upon us. I hope for us all that this will be a year of inclusive opportunities, filled with meaningful relationships, laughter, fun and lasting memories.

I hope that this can be a year of lighting sparks rather than filling vessels. I hope that we will explore, discover, engage, debate, struggle, persevere and grow.

I hope that we can embrace learning for its own sake and recognize that learning is life-long.

I hope that this is a year filled with joy and wonder for our children and that we are able to step back from the hectic routines to let them experience it all.

What Are Your Hopes for the Year Ahead?



This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 
 

You Are You



Over the years I have grown in my appreciation of Shabbat. Where once I saw it simply as the end of my work week, I now respect that Shabbat brings an opportunity to relax, reflect and reenergize before the new week ahead. I have experimented with different ways to observe, creating my own personal boundaries in ways that help me to connect and recharge. 

As we approach the final Shabbat of 5774, I am thinking about the ways in which I might grow my personal practice in the year ahead.

We can apply this same principle to our efforts to become inclusive. We can grow over time as we take opportunities to slow down, reflect and make new commitments.  No one ever said you have to do it all at once. No one ever said that inclusion has an "end date".


So here is a thought to consider as you slow down and reflect on how you might want to grow in the year ahead:

“Accept everything about yourself – I mean everything. You are you and that is the beginning and the end – no apologies, no regrets.” ~ Henry Kissinger



BlogElul 2014 Removing the Stumbling Block
This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 
 

Dare to Fulfill Your Obligations to Yourself



I’m a “finish what you start” kind of person. When I set a goal for myself, I see it through. But I am also realistic, and the goals I set for myself are typically appropriate and manageable, with just enough “reach” to push myself a little further.

#BlogElul is more ambitious than that. I am not a daily blogger. While I genuinely appreciate this opportunity to tune in and become more mindful as I prepare for the holy days ahead; if I am really honest with myself, completing #BlogElul fully is a bit of a personal dare. I feel a sense of obligation to myself, and that, in and of itself, might just be the point.
Honoring an Obligation to Yourself, Removing the Stumbling Block, Lisa Friedman

Like many, I spend much of my time honoring my obligations to other people. There are parents and caregivers who give so much of themselves to others that they lose sight of their own needs. There is something really special about honoring a significant obligation to myself. It’s freeing, in some ways. Certainly challenging in others. And absolutely worthwhile.

So I will see #BlogElul through to the end; and with it will come both pride in accomplishment and a deep sigh of relief as I greet the new year with a full heart and an open mind to the possibilities that lie ahead.

#BlogElul 2014


This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 

Be the Change, Be Inclusive




So much in our world is out of our control.

In discussing the inclusion of individuals with disabilities, there are two directions we might go. One would be to focus on organizational change; the other, personal change. Both have value, both have their place.

Too often, organizations become overwhelmed by the scope of change, forgetting that it is a process. The task may seem insurmountable and so they won’t start, they won’t try.  But change is a process, and you just have to start somewhere. 

And we must work hard to ensure that those of us acting as organizational change agents do the hard work of personal reflection. There is no room for hypocrisy. You can’t advocate for disability inclusion and then exclude a child with a disability from your daughter’s birthday party. You can’t be an advocate for inclusion and then rationalize parking in a handicapped spot.
 
Ghandi teaches us to “be the change we want to see in the world.” You can do it. You can practice what you preach. You must be inclusive as you work with those around you to do the same.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. ~ Reinhold Niebuhr

 Photo credit: wordybirdstudios and inspirationboost.com



BlogElul 2014 Removing the Stumbling Block
This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 
 

We Judge One Another



We judge one another.  

When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself; Removing the Stumbling Block
 
To judge is “to form an opinion or conclusion about.” Straightforward, right? We need to form opinions and draw conclusions in order to make sense of our world. We do this every day.

There Is No Shame in Asking For Help


no shame advocate teach children disability
There is no shame in asking for help.

We live in community. And at the core of a successful community are relationships built upon networks of interdependence. Why then, is asking for help hard for so many? 

There is no shame in asking for help.

Is it because we are a society that values independence? We are bombarded by images and messages of how to raise our children to be independent, but independence does not have to mean solitary.

There is no shame in asking for help.

We can teach our children and young adults to become their own advocates and empower individuals to articulate their own needs. We give our children a gift by teaching them how and when to ask for help.

There is no shame in asking for help. 

And yet, I have heard the frustrations of family members of people with disabilities who feel that they always have to ask – for help, for accommodations, for inclusive opportunities. Constant advocates may find themselves hoping that, “Just once…I won’t have to ask… (the school, the doctor, the synagogue…)”

Can we find the balance?

There is no shame in asking for help. But what happens if you grow tired of asking?



BlogElul 2014 Removing the Stumbling Block
This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 
 

There Is No Right Way To Pray


There is no right way to pray. Some feel most comfortable in a communal setting while others prefer solitude. Some speak to their God regularly, while others only once in a while. There is no right way; and we all pray.

Spirituality is a part of us as human beings, although there are those who would choose to deny it. Some have struggled with this idea their whole lives, others are completely in tune to their own internal voice. Still others may choose to ignore the inner voice they know is there.

A powerful disability quote: “Not being able to speak is not the same as not having anything to say”.

Disability quote, Removing the Stumbling Block

And so it is with prayer.

It is told that one Yom Kippur a poor Jewish boy, an illiterate shepherd, entered the synagogue where the Ba’al Shem Tov was praying. The boy was deeply moved by the service, but frustrated that he could not read the prayers. He started to whistle, the one thing he knew he could do beautifully; he wanted to offer his whistling as a gift to God. The congregation was horrified at the desecration of their service. Some people yelled at the boy, and others wanted to throw him out. The Ba'al Shem Tov immediately stopped them. "Until now," he said, "I could feel our prayers being blocked as they tried to reach the heavenly court. This young shepherd's whistling was so pure, however, that it broke through the blockage and brought all of our prayers straight up to God."



BlogElul 2014 Removing the Stumbling Block
This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 



Awaken to Inclusion



For me, the idea of awakening conjures images of heightened senses and an appreciation for the gift of life.


inclusion will happen awaken recognize each is a gift from God faith

To awaken can be to gain a spiritual awareness, to have our eyes symbolically opened to the beauty that is all around us. 

Inclusion will happen when we awaken to the recognition that each of us is a gift from God; that each of us has a gift to share with the world.



BlogElul 2014 Removing the Stumbling Block
This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 
 

A Lesson to Build Relationships

There is significant value to building relationships when seeking to foster inclusion. And yet, even when we understand the importance of cultivating authentic, meaningful relationships, the practicality of helping students actually do it can be daunting.

Here is a lesson specifically geared for older children and teens:

1.      Have a conversation about the power of words. Discuss how easily words can hurt a person and how it is just as easy to use words to lift someone up.

2.     Brainstorm together positive words that might be used to describe a friend or someone you care about. Consider steering children away from generic words like “nice” and “fun”.

3.     Have one student sit in front of a white board. Gather the other students around him/her to write positive phrases. No peeking! Take a photo of the student and the board when it is complete.

A Lesson to Build Relationships, Removing the Stumbling Block, teens, teach

                                         Photo and lesson idea credit: Melissa Farnsworth

Variations:

  • Do this activity once a week until every student in the class has had a turn.
  • If you have a white board that is rarely used, consider turning it into a display. Keep the original activity up along with the photo and encourage students to add to the board throughout the week.

I was sitting on a beach one summer day, watching two children, a boy and a girl, playing in the sand. They were hard at work building an elaborate sand castle by the water's edge, with gates and towers and moats and internal passages. Just when they had nearly finished their project, a big wave came along and knocked it down, reducing it to a heap of wet sand.
 
Building Relationships; Removing the Stumbling Block, Lisa Friedman
I expected the children to burst into tears, devastated by what had happened to all their hard work. But they surprised me. Instead, they ran up the shore away from the water, laughing and holding hands, and sat down to build another castle.

I realized that they had taught me an important lesson. All the things in our lives, all the complicated structures we spend so much time and energy creating, are built on sand. Only our relationships to other people endure. Sooner or later, the wave will come along and knock down what we have worked so hard to build up. When that happens, only the person who has somebody's hand to hold will be able to laugh.”  ~ Rabbi Harold Kushner



BlogElul 2014 Removing the Stumbling Block
This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 
 


Everyone Can Learn



Everyone can learn. That’s it.

So go ahead, include everyone.




BlogElul 2014 Removing the Stumbling Block This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 


It’s Time to Forgive Yourself and Move Forward


Forgive Yourself and Move Forward; Lisa Friedman, Removing the Stumbling Block

If you read a lot of education blogs, particularly those focused on disability inclusion, it may seem like there are a lot of “shoulds”.  This is how you should treat people with disabilities, this is how you should speak about people with disabilities, this is how you should teach and include people with disabilities.

When I write, my goal is to get you thinking, not make you feel guilty. I hope I lead you to think about what is possible. This is the time to forgive yourself and, as you move forward, find ways to add new elements of inclusion into your daily practice.

Maybe you haven’t yet found a way to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities in your school. Forgive yourself, and move forward.

Maybe you have not yet integrated the strategies of teaching a child with more complex disabilities in your classroom.  Forgive yourself, and move forward.

Maybe you haven’t yet found a way to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities in your congregation. Forgive yourself, and move forward.

Maybe you are not yet consistently using inclusive language.  Forgive yourself, and move forward.

Maybe you shy away from people with disabilities for fear of saying the wrong thing.  Forgive yourself, and move forward.

And, as you forgive, know that you can do more. In this month of Elul, in this period of teshuvah (returning to one’s self, repentance) you have the beautiful opportunity to reflect on what you are already doing and what challenges still lie ahead of you. It is a chance to change, to grow and to do more than you already are. It’s ok if you are not there yet.

Forgive yourself, and move forward.

BlogElul 2014 Removing the Stumbling BlockThis post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation...  


Will You See My Soul?



There is an image that I first encountered on Twitter that instantly captivated me: 

 “If only our eyes saw souls instead of bodies, how very different our ideals of beauty would be.”

If only…

Here is another image that I discovered on Pinterest:

How You See Yourself; Removing the Stumbling Block

“How others see you is not important. How you see yourself means everything."

And while I love the potential that this image represents, I also recognize the challenges. This could represent pushing ourselves father than we are truly capable. This could mean giving in to the dangers of eating disorders or other self-injurious behaviors because we are never satisfied with what we see...

Yet, when we combine the two images, and teach our children and ourselves to see souls and not physical attributes; how stunning the potential.

And finally, there is this image:

See the Able, Not the Label; Removing the Stumbling Block
"See the able, not the label."

How might you use these images?

Photo credits to nationalautism.org, themetapicture.com and pinwords



BlogElul 2014 Removing the Stumbling Block
This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 
 

Each Of Us Yearns To Be Heard



Each of us yearns to be heard. 

But how many of us really listen?

How often do you say, “I hear you?” Is that the same as listening?

Do you only listen for what you want to hear?

Can you really listen, to that which you can hear and that which you can’t?


“We, the one's who are challenged, need to be heard. To be seen not as a disability, but as a person who has, and will continue to bloom. To be seen not only as a handicap, but as a well intact human being.” -- Robert M. Hensel

Each of us yearns to be heard.



BlogElul 2014 Removing the Stumbling Block
This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 




I Believe in Inclusion



In 2013 I participated in BlogElul for the first time. Now I find myself wondering if it's “cheating” to look back at what I previously wrote for any given prompt. On the one hand, there is something significant to be said about authenticity. And yet, on the other hand, I am an educator, and my most successful lessons are those that I build upon from year to year. I don’t scrap what worked and start over just for the very sake of “new”. Rather, I capitalize on a lesson’s success and fine tune it to increase student engagement.

And so I share an updated (but not reinvented) post for the BlogElul prompt “Believe”:

I Beleive in Inclusion - Removing the Stumbling Block 
I believe in inclusion. 

I believe that each of us is created b’tzelem elohim (in the image of God).

I believe that inclusion is possible in every congregation, in every religious school, in every day school, in every Jewish organization.

I believe that we can work together to ensure that every child and every adult has an appropriate opportunity to learn Torah.

I believe that it is the responsibility of every educator, every teacher and every school leader to learn the strategies necessary to make inclusive education possible.

I believe in inclusion. 

I believe that all Jews have a right to live a meaningful Jewish life and that no one can determine what meaningful is for anyone else.

I believe that every person has a gift to offer to society.

I believe that it is incumbent upon us as families, as congregations, as a society and as human beings to help each person with and without disabilities bring his/her gift forward.

I believe these words from Pirkei Avot – As Rabbi Tarfon taught: "It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], but neither are you free to desist from it" (2:16).

I believe in inclusion.



This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 
 

Search: So I Went to Google...




The word search immediately makes me think Google. I am sure I am not the only one. I know that it’s Elul and this prompt is intended to inspire reflection and introspection, but I can’t quite seem to get my brain past the notion of an online search for ideas and images.

Maybe one reason for this is that I have finished reading the book “It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens” by Danah Boyd. To be honest, I have done little more than think about this book’s impact since setting it down. Yes, it really was that significant.

So I went to Google. I figured that if I was going to write a post about using Google to search, I should go ahead and do it myself.  I googled (yes, it is a verb) “inclusion” and the first hits were, as I expected, mostly education focused. I was also pleasantly surprised to see one of my own posts as the second hit. And yet, I realized that from the moment I pressed “enter” I was thinking more critically about what I might encounter online. I recognized that this search was tailored to my own biases based on my own past search history. Boyd elaborates on this in chapter 7 where she explains that, “most parents, teachers, and teens express reverence toward Google” and “many of the people I met believed that Google was neutral.” She further explains that most of the people she encountered failed to recognize that Google, a for-profit company monetized through advertising, is far from neutral.

This isn’t a bad thing, and it doesn’t mean that we should stop using the search engine. Rather, it illustrates that we have an obligation to teach our students and our children how to view and think critically about the information they access online.

That message is one of this book’s most significant takeaways. As Boyd states in her closing chapter, “Networked publics are here to stay. Rather than resisting technology or fearing what might happen if youth embrace social media, adults should help youth develop the skills and perspective to productively navigate the complication brought about by living in networked publics. Collaboratively, adults and youth can help to create a networked world that we all want to live in.”

As a Jewish Educator this speaks to me of tikkun olam; working as partners to repair and perfect the world.

As a teacher this speaks to me of directly teaching the skills of critical thinking and digital awareness.

As an advocate for inclusion this speaks to me of opening new doors and embracing new possibilities.

It’s Elul, so I am still processing, still reflecting, still searching for the ways that this book can and will impact my work and my students. I believe that this book is an important read for anyone who works with, lives with or cares about teens.

And if anyone has read “It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens” and wants to discuss, please let me know! 



BlogElul 2014 Removing the Stumbling Block
This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 
 
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