A message from Adam Silver, CEO Calgary Jewish Federation

Calgary Jewish Federation CEO Adam Silver

by Adam Silver

(Calgary) – Each year, the month of February ushers in Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month (JDAIM). The initiative’s co-founder, Shelly Christensen (who has visited and presented to Jewish Calgary in the past), highlights JDAIM’s mission is to unite Jewish communities worldwide to raise awareness and champion the rights of all Jews to be accepted and included in all aspects of Jewish and community life. This inclusion does not simply mean creating specific programs for those who are different. Rather, our goal as a community is to provide accommodations for enhanced participation in programming and, from a strengths-based perspective, showcase the incredible talents and contributions of Jewish Calgarians who are neuro-diverse or have various disabilities.

It is our collective responsibility and opportunity to ensure all members of Jewish Calgary feel welcome, and our community organizations continue to commit to being growingly more inclusive. Many organizations are now offering accessible options enhanced audio and visual support, sensory-aware options for programs and services, and free admission for aids/companions who accompany community members to assist them. It is not enough to simply open the doors, however. It is critical for us all to address any preconceived notions we have, and to act with kindness, empathy, and appreciation. Judaism commands us to not insult the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of someone who is blind (Leviticus 19:14). Removing barriers and including each and every person in the Kehillah (community) are core tenets of our faith, and certainly drivers of
Jewish Calgary.

Though JDAIM comes only one month a year, inclusion is a year-round and evolving practice. As we imagine ways our community can and does embrace those who are different, we must all make time to reflect on ways our families and homes can do the same. What can we learn from those who have different cognitive or physical abilities? Can we slow down and, in the moment, see their beautiful and talented souls? In what ways can we include those with diverse needs and abilities in our lives and community practices? While we continue to remove barriers and make programs and services more accessible, we still have much work to do. It is my commitment that we will continue to learn and grow, making Jewish Calgary the welcoming and inclusive home I know it can and wants to be.

Adam Silver is CEO, Calgary Jewish Federation.

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