By Amanda Thomas, Ph.D.
Accessibility and Inclusion Coordinator
“Diversity is having a seat at the table, Inclusion is having a voice, and belonging is having that voice be heard.” – Liz Fosslein
To continue the conversation on disability and inclusion from the JDAIM Virtual Town Hall, Jewish Family Service of the Lehigh Valley created the Accessibility and Inclusion Committee. The committee’s goals are the following: 1) to provide information and education on policies, procedures, attitudes, and physical space of our synagogues as they relate to accessibility and inclusion, 2) to raise awareness regarding barriers to full congregant participation, 3) to give a voice to those that have diverse types of abilities, including those who identify as LGBTQIA. Our logo, created by the committee members, represents JFS unlocking accessibility and inclusion.
JFSLV Accessibility and Inclusion Committee Next Steps:
At the core of a thriving congregation is a commitment to ensuring that every individual is valued and has a place in the community. JFS Accessibility and Inclusion Coordinator Amanda Thomas, Ph.D., created an accessibility and inclusion checklist for synagogues. Using this tool, synagogues can begin to recognize possible areas of growth to be more accessible and inclusive to their congregants. Amanda and the committee are excited to work with the synagogues to begin taking feasible steps to achieving their inclusion goal. It is important to note that inclusion does not mean expensive. There are “welcoming” tips/tasks that increase the synagogue’s ability to welcome everyone that require minimal resources. For example, Amanda explains: “A first step may be listing available accommodations and asking if there are any additional accommodations that may be needed to fully participate in a program.” On the other hand, there is recognition that some specific accommodations may require strategic planning and additional funding. It is important to have this data across the Lehigh Valley to explore capital campaigns and grant opportunities in the future.
Accessibility and Inclusion can’t change overnight but you can start the process of change right now! In the words of Rabbi Hillel, if not now, when?
If you are interested in joining the Accessibility and Inclusion Committee, please contact Amanda Thomas, Ph.D. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“For My house shall be a house of prayer for all people” – Isaiah 56:5