by Adam Silver
(AJNews) – For this month’s POM message, I am inspired to highlight our community’s focus on accessibility, inclusion, and the removal of barriers to participation. It has been said, one can tell a lot about a community by examining how it treats its most vulnerable members. While we still have much to do to become a model community, we also have quite a lot of which to be proud. I’ll begin my message with a focus on Jewish Disabilities Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), and then will transition to some highlights of our Integrated Bursary Program, where Beth Price and Debbie Ryder, volunteer co-chairs, will share a few words.
Over the years, Calgary Jewish Federation and its community partners have placed increasing focus and resources on making programs, services, and physical buildings more inclusive. To be clear, inclusion is not simply about accommodation or segregated programming. True inclusion requires us to see things from different perspectives, to integrate various programs and people more fulsomely, and to apply a strengths-based approach to all we do, viewing everyone’s contributions as special and enhancing, rather than things to be modified or managed. While our efforts aim to keep this in mind all year long, the month of February and JDAIM each year help us renew our commitment to inclusion and provide us with opportunities to shine a light on the amazing potential in front of us.
From fully integrated programs to facilities that enhance their physical spaces in beneficial ways for all, Jewish Calgary is continuing in its efforts to remove barriers to participation and enable even more people to live the Jewish lives they want for themselves and those close to them. Federation’s Inclusion Manager, Karina Szulc, brings expertise and passion to her work, and in addition to providing programs and services, she is a fountain of knowledge for families in need of support, and also provides guidance and training for our community’s organizations and schools. She works with a volunteer committee chaired by the equally committed Sandra Weizman. If you would like to learn more about our inclusion efforts or want to support our work in this area by volunteering or donating, please reach out to Karina directly at email@example.com.
Jewish Calgary continues to operate its innovative Integrated Bursary Program (IBP), an initiative intended to remove financial barriers to participating in formative Jewish experiences, including formal and informal education. IBP provides the opportunity for families to apply for a single, reduced contribution amount for The Calgary Jewish Academy, Halpern Akiva Academy, JCC day camp and membership, and Camp BB Riback summer registration – entirely through one streamlined process. All sensitive information is shared only once and is held with the utmost confidence, and there are opportunities to share subjective information through one-to-one meetings with volunteer counselors, including loss of job, family health expenses, and more. IBP is a dignified way to enable participation.
The program has been led since its inception by IBP Co-Chair, Beth Price, who notes that: “Jewish Calgary is a community that cares. It is our duty to ensure that our children experience Jewish education and community activities while mitigating financial barriers. IBP is a dignified way to partner with families and community organizations to allow children to live up to their potential. I am very proud of IBP and I know it is making a meaningfull difference for many community members.”
Recently, Beth was joined by Debbie Ryder as co-chair, with Debbie serving as a volunteer counselor, and developing into a leadership role alongside Beth. Debbie values the program in that: “It provides a chance for community participation for those who would otherwise fall through the cracks or opt-out of our schools, camps, and JCC. I have sat with families who have shared details of their financial and other challenges with me, and who have inspired me with their unwavering commitment to instilling Jewish experiences and values in their children, even though the cost is prohibitive for them. IBP helps our community achieve something very special.”
Learn more about IBP by visiting jewishcalgary.org/ibp-making-jewish-life-more-affordable or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am so proud of our community’s efforts in inclusion and accessibility. While we are not yet fully barrier-free, we are certainly improving each and every year. I hope you will join us in viewing things from a different perspective from time to time, and see the immense value we derive when we include others. Let’s imagine together a Jewish Calgary that sets the standard for other communities and lives and breathes what it preaches. I am confident we are well on our way, and I ask all of you to join us in our aspirations.
Adam Silver, CEO, Calgary Jewish Federation