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Time to include the learning disabled

November 24, 2016 23:17

Our Jewish tradition is based on a foundation of embracing all within our community. Inclusivity is a core Jewish value. Being included in one's community and its activities, in social roles and personal relationships, is an invaluable part of anybody's life, and contributes to one's personal well-being.

This is particularly important for people with disabilities. When people are at risk of alienation on account of having complex needs, and face more challenges in life, it is important to make an extra effort to ensure their inclusion.

We know that participation in religious, social and educational forums gives value and meaning to one's life. It offers a sense of belonging, a way of learning new skills, gaining new friends and experiences and can lead to employment and future prospects.

The Judith Trust's Inclusion Campaign aims to promote the inclusion of people with learning disabilities and mental health issues in the Jewish community.

Established in 1997, The Judith Trust charity focuses its work (advocacy, sharing best practice and commissioning research and resources) on the problems faced by people who have both a learning disability and mental ill-health. The Inclusion Campaign is cross-communal and aims to encourage synagogues and other Jewish institutions to reconsider how they welcome, involve and include people with learning disabilities, their families and carers, in religious and communal life.

Families and carers need better pastoral care

The catalyst for the campaign was research commissioned by the trust on what being Jewish meant to people with learning disabilities. It found that such people wanted more opportunities for religious and cultural education. It was also clear that families and carers needed better pastoral care at synagogues along with access to special-needs resources, training, and education for rabbis.

With the High Holidays approaching, it is important that synagogues and their communities recognise that there will be individuals and families within their congregations who would like to attend services but feel excluded from participating because of their learning disabilities and/or mental health issues. The Judith Trust Inclusion Campaign is proposing that all synagogues operate a scheme whereby a certain number of tickets could be made available for no cost, or at a discounted rate, for such people. Bookings would be made through us; we would gather the relevant information from prospective attendees and pass it on to the shul.

We envisage only modest numbers of people wishing to take up this offer but, nonetheless, it would be a real achievement to make it possible even for only a few more people to attend shul who have been previously unable to or felt excluded.

We are currently working with a number of synagogues across the religious spectrum including Alei Tzion (US), Bushy (US), Elstree and Borehamwood (US), and The Liberal Jewish Synagogue. We would welcome more especially from outside London.

While this is a pilot initiative, we hope to operate the scheme for the upcoming Shabbat UK weekend on October 25. We are working with the Office of the Chief Rabbi in order to make Shabbat UK as inclusive as possible.

If you represent a shul that would like to take part in this scheme, or if you are a person - or a carer for a person - with a learning disability and/or mental health issue, and would like to attend shul over the High Holydays, please contact Eliana@judithtrust.org.uk for London enquiries or Jo@judithtrust.org.uk for Manchester and the regions.

November 24, 2016 23:17

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