Wake Up Call - Inclusion Matters

Wake Up Call - Inclusion Matters; Removing the Stumbling Block

I am fortunate to have had a second opportunity to staff a Birthright trip to Israel. Many will recall that I led for the first time in 2016 as a way to honor a dear friend as well as to understand this meaningful experience firsthand to be better able to guide the young adults I love and teach. I quickly recognized that this was also an opportunity for me to grow both personally and professionally.

This time, I embarked on a trip with a small group of young adults from my own community in tow. How powerful to travel together again as we did when they were teens and to stand together in the places that I had taught them about when they were children.

And yet, as it often does, my thoughts turned to inclusion as I came to learn the personal stories of others who joined us on this journey.

Rewind to 2016 for a moment: I vividly recall sitting at breakfast one morning with a group of young men as one shared his story of being kicked out of Hebrew School. He spoke of his own challenging behavior and the lack of patience anyone in his community had for it. I can still remember my jaw dropping a bit and not being able to understand how this could be…and yet it was. I tucked it away.

Fast forward a year: Another breakfast conversation, this time with a young woman who shared her childhood struggles with dyslexia and the inability of her community to teach her successfully. She shared her feelings of isolation and frustration and of thinking that she was never good enough, so she stopped going to religious school. And once again I felt my jaw go a little slack at my sense of disbelief that anyone in any community would let such a precious soul go. 

Toward the end of our respective trips, each of them remarked that they wished they’d had an Educator like me growing up. And while I hold close the power of their words, I share them not as a statement of ego, but rather to illustrate the missed opportunities. Inclusion is always possible. It may not always be easy, but it is right and just and necessary. No young adult should ever look back and wish that his or her Jewish education had been different. No young adult should ever come to realize that the gift they were always entitled to was taken from them.

Israel scene; Removing the Stumbling BlockThis is our wake up call. This is our reminder that each and every child matters. Every educator has the ability to ensure that every student feels loved and supported and capable. 

I’m the lucky one. I was there when each of them reclaimed their birthright of Jewish identity as they became bar/bat mitzvah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. I'm the lucky one because I get to love these precious souls as the Jewish adults they were always meant to be.

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