One question every workplace, organisation and religion should ask itself is: do we do enough to accommodate differently-abled people? As a Liberal Jew and a movement worker for Liberal Judaism’s youth movement LJY-Netzer, I decided to explore attitudes towards disability within Liberal Judaism.
The movement prides itself on being an inclusive Judaism, which seeks to treat everyone equally. I did not have to look far to find textual support within the Torah for these principles, as one blessing reads: “Blessed are You, God, who makes people different.”
Over the past few months we have had many successes in terms of same-sex marriage, living wage campaigns and the pioneering new transgender project, Twilight People. And, while there is always more to be done to accommodate people of different physical, mental or cognitive abilities, Liberal Judaism and LJY-Netzer is constantly striving to be inclusive to everyone.
In LJY-Netzer, we seek to create a culture in which everyone is equal. We aim to provide a variety of rolemodels to our members and eliminate societal prejudice through education and the celebration of difference, whatever its form.
This manifests itself in many ways, from accommodating children on our summer camp with specific learning difficulties to facilitating their transition into being madrichim (leaders) and encouraging them to inspire the next generation.
We believe everyone should be entitled to the same experiences and have access to the same opportunities, regardless of their abilities or differences. For the past year, our social action project, as voted by our bogrim (members aged 18 and over), has been mental health awareness in association with the organisation Time to Change.
As part of our strategy, our madrichim took part in a mental health first aid course, as well as educating on the topic on events to combat stigma and create an open environment where people do not feel they have to hide.
As a Liberal Jew, embracing difference is synonymous with my spiritual identity and values. There is always more to be done, but I’m proud to be part of a movement that is leading the way in terms of inclusion of differently abled people.
•Tamara Silver is a movement worker for LJY-Netzer