Eliana Zur-Szpiro

Eliana Zur-Szpiro

By Eliana Zur-Szpiro, The Judith Trust

Our Jewish tradition is based on a foundation of embracing all within our community. Inclusivity is a core Jewish value that must pervade all aspects of Jewish life.

Being included in one’s community, within activities, in social roles and personal relationships, is an invaluable part of any person’s life, and contributes to one’s personal well-being.

This is no less true, if not even more so, for people with disabilities. When people are at risk of alienation  due to having complex needs, and when one faces more challenges in life, it is important to make an extra effort to ensure their inclusion.

Participation in religious, social and educational forums can help add meaning to one’s life, give people a sense of belonging, a way of learning new skills, gaining new friends and experiences and helping to lead to employment and future prospects.

The Judith Trust’s Inclusion Campaign aims to improve the inclusion of people with learning disabilities and mental-health issues in the Jewish community. The trust works with Mitzvah Day as well as lots of other organisations to make sure these people can be an integral part of the world around them.

An important part of Jewish life is volunteering in the community. The trust has been working closely with the community’s key volunteering organisations, JVN and Mitzvah Day, to help ensure people with additional support needs have the opportunities to share in this important Jewish value.

Mitzvah Day is such a perfect opportunity for genuine inclusion. It unites people of different ages, religious denominations and all abilities from all over the country into a shared experience of volunteering.

As such a fun and uplifting project, Mitzvah Day encapsulates the way volunteering is a way of doing something for others while at the same time giving volunteers something back. Again, this goes for all people, those with disabilities and without.

Mitzvah Day provides people with disabilities with rewarding volunteering experiences which may continue throughout the year and could even help to build one’s work experience, leading to future employment and to maintaining an involvement within the Jewish community.

Gregory, one such volunteer, says of his work: “It is very interesting and I enjoy it.” Meggie says of volunteering: “I like to raise money for refugees. It makes me happy that I am able to help other people.”

Not only does participation in Mitzvah Day have such important benefits but people with disabilities also play a valuable role in the day’s projects.

People with disabilities, like all people, have different skills they can offer. They are equally hard-working and may have lots of time to devote to volunteering.

A more diverse group of volunteers will offer a wider range of skills, experiences and perspectives, make a project more sustainable, reflect the community better, making opportunities to build partnerships within it, and bring new ideas.

Being considerate towards people with disabilities can help make us aware and sensitive to the particular needs and challenges that we all have.

Including people with disabilities can help enrich the experience of those taking part in Mitzvah Day – giving the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate the diversity of our community, and enabling a better understanding of working alongside different types of people. By being inclusive, the day embodies the values for which it stands, which helps strengthen participants’ motivation and commitment to these ideals.

The Judith Trust and Mitzvah Day are working together to make this year’s Mitzvah Day Together even bigger and more inclusive than last year’s. We will be posting opportunities for Mitzvah Day projects on our website www.judithtrust.org.uk.

  • To get involved, contact Eliana on 07543 580 798 or at eliana@judithtrust.org.uk