Inclusion Requires Authenticity

I think about authenticity a lot.

Inclusion requires authenticity; Removing the Stumbling Block

I’m fairly certain one significant reason is that I work with pre-teens and teens - and they will not hesitate to call you out for a lack of authenticity. I actually believe that this is why I have had such great successes in building relationships with teens – because I have proven my willingness to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

This holds true to inclusion. Authenticity is a key element to ensuring that a community’s inclusive efforts aren’t just words on a page, but rather an integral part of who they are and all they do.

When asked how it came to be that I would staff a URJ Kesher Birthright trip to Israel this Winter cycle, I readily share the two reasons:

First: I lost a dear friend to cancer a few years ago. I miss her every day. I can still vividly recall our breakfast conversations (that was our thing - breakfast together every six weeks) both before and after the trip that she staffed. She told me, in no uncertain terms, that I MUST do this. I didn’t forget. And I am honored to hold her memory close as I make this experience a reality.

Second: this experience is about authenticity. I have been encouraging countless young adults to take advantage of Birthright for many years. And I have lived vicariously through their stories and pictures, feeling great pride as lessons they learned in childhood came to life in front of their eyes and deep in their hearts. But I truly believe that authenticity is a per-requisite to speaking honestly about any program I might encourage. This is why I can speak so passionately about the NFTY Mitzvah Corps programs. And this is why I go to camp (and serve on faculty) each and every summer.

But I have a secret to share; I also have a little bit of a hidden agenda.

You see, I believe that we can and should be offering a Birthright track that is more manageable for young adults with disabilities. I know this changes the model. (I also know that the most dangerous phrase in the English language is, “we’ve always done it that way.”) I know such a trip requires additional staff and possibly adjusting the itinerary. But I also know that it is possible because there are other models. And I know that it can be a powerful opportunity. Read: "A Reminder of What is Possible"

So now my secret agenda isn’t such a secret. It is my hope that once I have had the experience of staffing a Birthright trip and know the "ins and outs" more intimately, that I might be better positioned to move conversations forward around making trips more accessible and inclusive.

Inclusion requires authenticity.

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