What Does Inclusion Mean to You?

Inclusion is opening the doors that would otherwise remain closed; Removing the Stumbling Block

I frequently have opportunities to engage in a conversations about inclusion with my colleagues. Sometimes these conversations are Jewish, sometimes they aren't. Either way, the driving force behind such discussions is one of increasing the ways that individuals with disabilities are included in our schools and communities.

Often, inclusion can become controversial, and it typically stirs up a lot of emotion. It's not the existence or lack of inclusion that gets people fired up, per se. Rather, it's how inclusion itself is defined that causes debate and often, disagreement. That's good; where there is passion there can be change.

So, when asked how I define inclusion, I explain that to me, inclusion is opening the doors that would have otherwise remained closed. I realize that my practice of inclusion is not always about “Inclusion”, the noun with a capital “I”. Rather, my vision is one in which I consistently strive to create inclusive experiences, especially within the Jewish world. I am, quite frankly, less concerned about holding myself, my school or my community to a hard and fast definition of “Inclusion”. Rather, I work to stay true to the belief that everyone is entitled to a Jewish education and that each experience increases the potential of living a meaningful Jewish life.

In a Jewish supplemental school I believe that inclusion should mean offering a wide array of options to meet the needs of every student. Which is exactly what should exist for very student, disabilities or not. Rather than being exclusive, such options can open the doors that might have otherwise remained closed. Too many synagogue schools continue to try to find ways to "fit" students with disabilities into their "typical" school models, often frustrating teachers and alienating students, and in some cases pushing families away.  

“Every member of the people of Israel is obligated to study Torah – whether one is rich or poor, physically able or with physical disability.” (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, chapter 10).    
Inclusion must offer every child the chance to learn and experience the rich beauty of their heritage in a way that ensures success.    

What does inclusion mean to you?

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