D’var Torah for Friday, February 18, 2022

Established in 2009, February has been designated the month for Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion or JDAIM. In the words of Reform Judaism, “it is a unified effort among Jewish organizations worldwide to raise awareness and foster acceptance and inclusion of people with disabilities and mental health conditions and those who love them.”1

Every year we work to raise awareness, and we often have presentations at a Shabbat evening service by speakers and those whose lives are touched by issues related to inclusion and acceptance. 

That being said, it is also important to speak about why this is not just an important issue but also an important Jewish issue. This week is also when we will be reading from parashat Ki Tisa. In reading the Torah portion, we learn that there are central lessons and teachings that connect between the Torah and the lessons of JDAIM. For example, early on in the portion, we are taught that each person has an equal stake in the sanctuary, in the community of God: a half shekel to redeem the soul of every man/person amongst the children of Israel.2 More than that, it’s important that each person be counted amongst the Children of Israel.3 This is reminding us that each Israelite mattered, deserved to be counted, and were recognized as being a central part of the community.

As it is in our tradition, so too it is in our RTR home. Whether it is working with our students according to their needs in our Religious School, creating life cycle experiences according to the needs of our members, our accessible facility, our use of a hearing loop, and the use of live transcription during our zoom worship services, just to name a few, we continue to strive to be a welcoming and accommodating congregational family. 

This is because we believe in the values stated above in Ki Tisa and in the core Jewish value of B’tzelem Elohim, that we are all created in the image of God. To be welcoming and inclusive is not only a human value, but also a core Jewish value as well.

Please join us this Shabbat as we learn more about the ways that we can support and include Jews across all spectrums of life and needs, so that all will be counted and all will feel they count.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Benjamin A. Sharff

____________________

1

https://reformjudaism.org/beliefs-practices/racial-equity-diversity-inclusion/what-jewish-disability-awareness-acceptance-and-inclusion-month

2 Exodus 30:11-13

3 Exodus 30:11-16