This week close to 400 people came together at Temple Emanuel in Newton to share and celebrate the ongoing work of the Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project (RSIP). Thirty-five rabbis were among the crowd, and 45 synagogues were acknowledged for their work in inclusion and mental health awareness.
RSIP began four years ago with three synagogues representing Judaism’s Orthodox, Conservative and Reform denominations. They were Congregation Shaarei Tefillah of Newton, Temple Beth Elohim of Wellesley and Temple Emunah of Lexington, recalled Sharon Shapiro, a trustee of the Ruderman Family Foundation. Shapiro, who focuses on mental health awareness for the foundation, said in a recent interview with JewishBoston at her office in Newton: “I’m passionate about the subject. With statistics being as high as they are regarding mental health issues, it makes sense that it’s something that needs to be addressed. We started to learn the landscape of mental health last year. We’ve noticed through this project and other partnerships that mental health is coming to the surface, making it a natural topic for the synagogue inclusion project.”
Molly Silver, manager of RSIP for CJP, praised the Ruderman Family Foundation for “bringing inclusion to the forefront of the Boston Jewish community.” Silver added that local synagogues have been key partners with the foundation “in fostering this work. They make this subject a priority in their communities and do everything they can to make everyone feel welcomed into Jewish life. This is what it means to be holy, inclusive and welcoming to all. This is what it means to be a sacred community.”
Both Silver and Shapiro noted RSIP’s remarkable growth over the past three years, which now includes an alumni group. During the course of the evening, there were workshops for seasoned partners, as well as those new to RSIP. Alumni and others could attend facilitated talks on “Moving Your Inclusion Agenda Forward” with representatives from three synagogues that included Congregation Shaarei Tefillah, Temple Beth Elohim and Temple Isaiah of Lexington. There was an option to explore “Disability Awareness” in an interactive session with staff from Gateways: Access to Jewish Education. More recent partners had the opportunity to become better acquainted with the goals of the project in a session on “Strategies for Synagogue Inclusion.”