South Florida to Come Together in Effort to Be More Inclusive, In Synagogues, Schools and Other Jewish Institutions

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ShabbaTTogether will Promote Disability Inclusion and Mental Health Awareness in 200 Communities on Six Continents

The Jewish community of South Florida will take an important step in incorporating inclusion of individuals with disabilities and mental health conditions in the synagogue and throughout Jewish life Friday, Feb. 8 – Saturday, Feb. 9 at The Family Shul, in conjunction with Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), which is February. Religious settings such as the synagogue, mikvah or holiday programs often present a unique set of challenges to people living with disabilities and mental health conditions. A focus of the weekend will be learning how community members can better support people with disabilities so that they feel at home in the synagogue and at community events.

The project, dubbed “ShabbaTTogether,” is a project of Chabad Chayil and the Ruderman Chabad Inclusion Initiative, an organization that empowers Jewish communities to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for people with disabilities and mental health conditions.

Our community, just like every community, includes people with disabilities. We may not always see or understand what someone is going through, but we can work to create an environment where everyone feels welcome and like they truly belong at Chabad.

The inclusion initiative draws inspiration from the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, who taught that all people are one entity, and while each individual has different talents and abilities, every individual who fulfills his or her obligations to the extent of their G‑d-given capacities shares in the totality of the effort and accomplishment.

At Chabad Chayil we see this Shabbat as a time to increase our efforts towards inclusion, which already include wheelchair access, allergen-sensitive menus, large-print prayer books, page-number signage, a quiet space and more. Classes, sermons, and discussions over the course of the weekend geared towards adults, teens, and children will focus on creating a mindset of inclusivity, as well as practical ways to help people living with disabilities feel welcome.

“I wish people would understand that all I want is to participate like everyone else,” said a community member who asked to remain unnamed, “For me, going to synagogue, is what makes me feel like I belong in the community. I am so thankful that Chabad is going out of their way to ensure I can participate and contribute in my community.”

Participants will enjoy meaningful discussions, delicious meals, inspirational prayer services and thought-provoking lessons, all in the spirit of inclusion and awareness. After Shabbat, participants will gather to watch the critically-acclaimed documentary film Front of The Class, which chronicles a young man’s challenges as a child in school and what he does to change the classroom forever.

A concurrent program at Chabad on Campus in many college towns will focus on mental health, creating a safe space to reduce the stigma often associated with discussing mental health and discussing strategies for increased mental wellness.

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