Empowering Teens to be Inclusive of People with Disabilities

NFTY teens studying disability inclusion, Removing the Stumbling Block

Two of the things I am most passionate about in my professional life are disability inclusion and Jewish teens. Can you begin to imagine my excitement when these two things come together?

It happened! Not only did I have the good fortune of presenting a disability inclusion workshop at the NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth) Convention in Atlanta, Georgia; it was to a standing-room only group of teens. We should follow their lead – they are ready to make change!

First, we explored some definitions of inclusion:

Define inclusion in three words or less, Removing the Stumbling Block
Read more about this activity here: Define Inclusion in Three Words or Less

Then we explored the Jewish imperative as to WHY we must be inclusive (despite not being held to the same legal obligations as secular organizations). These teens blew me away with their thoughtful and varied responses to an activity based on Jewish texts:

I love leading sessions like this. It is truly a thrill to empower our future leaders to take these conversations home and make real change in their communities.

But I would be remiss if I did not point out the one aspect that made this workshop stand out from all the others I have done. This time my co-presenter was a high school senior from my own congregation, Max Friedman. (I love how he introduces himself, by the way: “Yes, we have the same last name. No, we aren’t related. But [since she runs my religious school] she's like my second mother because she helped raise me.)

I’m deeply proud of our congregation for its ongoing commitment to inclusion. We are a community that recognizes that inclusion is a part of who we are and that being inclusive must be a seamless and natural part of everything we do. And yet even as I know this, experiencing it first hand is a joy. There is no small amount of pride in knowing that I helped to teach this value to such a poised young man who is now empowered to teach it to others. 

Way to go, Max. You've done us all proud!

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