by Adam Silver, CEO Calgary Jewish Federation
(Calgary) – Each year, the month of February marks two very significant events: Black History Month (BHM) and Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, Inclusion Month (JDAIM). As a community, we are made better and more complete by ensuring we embrace diversity and inclusion. We not only recognize the strength that comes in welcoming people of all abilities and backgrounds to our community, but we also acknowledge the responsibility to live our lives with empathy, partnership, and intentionality.
The Jewish people have a long history with the Black community, with some similarities in overall experience, and with alignment and collaboration in historical achievements. Both communities also intersect, and our Jewish community includes Jews of Colour who might find themselves balancing the strengths and challenges facing both communities in a combined way.
Both communities have known, and still know, discrimination. Both communities have known slavery, persecution, and human atrocities. Both communities have broad and meaningful cultures that they struggle, at times, to pass down to the next generation. Although my intention is not to suggest a tit-for-tat exchange of horrors and challenges, it is clear that both communities have suffered and continue to be the “other” (or outsider) even in modern times. There have also been significant human and civil rights achievements when these communities have worked together. Each community has stood up for the other, and both communities have come together at times to work toward achievements based on shared values. Please acknowledge BHM with me – seek out resources, participate in online programs, and give pause and thought as to how you, and we, can live and breathe the value of true community and compassion in earnest.
February is also a time during which we embrace differences as strengths. This is not limited to only JDAIM, as our community has a small but robust program department focused on inclusion throughout the year. However, JDAIM is a time to reset and provide a reminder that people of all abilities are welcome in Jewish Calgary.
Those in our community with special needs and abilities are strengths – not weaknesses. They teach us every day about what is possible, about caring and kindness, and about human nature. While we are not perfect and have a long way to go, Jewish Calgary continues to make strides in accessible programming, education and training, and in deeper, true integration of our programs and services. Again, we have a long way to go, but it is inspiring to see our community’s organizations leading the way to provide more opportunities to even more community members. Please be sure to seek out JDAIM programming, and don’t be shy to ask organizations with which you are affiliated about the efforts they are making to welcome people of all abilities.
Keeping empathy, warmth, and thoughtfulness at the forefront of what we do as a community will support a vibrant, more engaged, model Jewish Calgary. Together, WE CAN include all! Together, WE CAN lift up others! Together, WE CAN be whole.
Wishing you and yours a safe and meaningful February. B’shalom.
Adam Silver is CEO, Calgary Jewish Federation.