Temple Emanuel, along with seven other synagogues in Greater Boston, is honored to be selected as a Synagogue Partner for the Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project (RSIP), a partnership with Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), Boston’s Jewish Federation. Together, they are working to create communities where people of all abilities are welcomed, valued equally and participate fully. The synagogues were recognized at a community event that highlighted the work of RSIP on May 23 at Temple Emanuel in Newton. Professor Julia Watts Belser, a leader in disability justice and global health organizing delivered the keynote speech at Celebrating Inclusion: Opening the Doors to Community.
The Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project provides partner synagogues with funding and other resources to support innovative programs, improvements or training to become more welcoming and inclusive. Last year, the Project launched with three pilot synagogues; helping them to expand and strengthen programs and inspire other synagogues to become more inclusive by sharing their experiences and best practices with the wider community.
In general, inclusion is the opportunity for people of any and all abilities to participate in meaningful ways within their community. Inclusion is also recognizing that we are “one” even though we are not the same. “Inclusion is something of a misnomer. True inclusion is the restructuring of our world, from synagogue to society, to allow full and dignified participation of all people, regardless of disability or any other difference from the hypothetical norm which might present a barrier,” said Matan Koch, Inclusion Consultant for the Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project.
As chair of Temple Emanuel’s (TE) B’Tselim Inclusion Committee, Jerry Jacobs has identified four goals they hope to accomplish in the upcoming year: ensuring physical access for members to all aspects of synagogue life, identifying and addressing “invisible disabilities” of TE members ( i.e. food allergies, social/emotional issues, addressing the learning and social challenges of TE’s youth accessing school, youth groups, and services and communicating that inclusion of individuals with disabilities is part of each of Temple Emanuel’s eight gates. He indicated that there are also plans underway for community learning about disability awareness and inclusion in the synagogue.
According to Rabbi Wesley Gardenswartz being a RSIP Synagogue Partner will connect Temple Emanuel with the resources, expertise, and training in order to be a more welcoming synagogue. “We hope our partnership with the Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project will accomplish two worthy goals. One, it will allow us to do right by all the persons who enter our community. Two, whatever we learn, we are happy to share with other synagogues and communal organizations in Greater Boston. Together, may all of us in Jewish communal life seek, find and respond to the tzelem Elohim, the image of God, that is in every one of us.”
The other seven synagogues to receive the award include Congregation Ohabei Shalom and Temple Sinai in Brookline; Congregation Dorshei Tzedek and Temple Shalom in Newton; Temple Beth Shalom in Needham, Temple Isaiah in Lexington and Young Israel of Sharon.
Matan Koch states, “The road to full inclusion in our synagogues is a path without a definite end.
The good news is that while there is no definite end, there is, perhaps, a definite beginning.” Temple Emanuel is proud to be opening their doors to all in the community.