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February Is "Focus on Inclusion Month"

Scroll down for a overview of Inclusion Month 2022, presented by Melissa Kelley, Chair of the Beth Am Include Committee

An Overview by Melissa Kelley, Chair of the Beth Am Include Committee

Many people at Beth Am know the Include Committee for the work we have done over the years to make sure that all Beth Am youth feel welcome and are able to participate in synagogue life. This year, our Inclusion Coordinator manages a caseload of more than 30 students who have special needs and/or learning disabilities, about 10 of whom have active classroom accommodation plans. Meredith McEvoy, our Inclusion Coordinator, supports these students in the classroom by offering accommodation suggestions to teachers, observing in class and connecting with parents as needed. A parent commented on our end-of-year survey, “The addition of Meredith was a gift. She assisted us in getting the tools and learning materials needed to study Beit Midrash/Bar Mitzvah.”

However, Beth Am members might not be aware that the Include Committee also actively advocates and sponsors programming and awareness around inclusion and diversity topics more broadly, such as mental health, LGBTQ+ awareness, physical disability issues and more.

The biggest request we had from participants in our Jewish Inclusion month last year was to bring workshops to Beth Am on gender identity, sexual orientation and related topics. These requests came from all kinds of folks at Beth Am, including parents and grandparents who are looking for support in better understanding and helping their children and grandchildren who identify as transgender, nonbinary or gender-expansive in some way or whose identities encompass other aspects of the LGBTQ+ rainbow. You asked and we listened! We are very excited to sponsor a two-part workshop led by a trainer from Keshet, an amazing Jewish non-profit whose mission is the advancement of LGBTQ+ equality in Jewish life. The first installment, on Sunday, February 27 from 3:30-5:00 PM, is a community Training focused on the fundamentals of LGBTQ+ awareness. It’s for anyone who wants to learn more about the latest developments, concepts and language (including how to use pronouns!) important to understanding the LGBTQ+ community. The second installment, on Sunday, April 3 from 3:30-5:00 PM, builds on the first, with a focus on allyship training and growing the advocacy skills to support LGBTQ+ kids and adults, both as individuals and as a community. We hope you can attend!

Our upcoming Jewish Inclusion Month during the month of February will also address the biggest issues I have been hearing about in our Parent Circle — the precipitous rise of anxiety in children, teens and families. We will be looking at tools and strategies for addressing anxiety in children and in teens, with a little Jewish wisdom for a new perspective. Please plan to join us Sunday, February 6 at 7:30 PM for our workshop on children and anxiety (PK-5th grade) and Wednesday, February 16 at 6:30 PM for our workshop on teens and anxiety (6th-12th grade) .

And finally, our film for Jewish Inclusion Month will feature the theme of how individuals and families face adversity, especially when one member of the family has a disability. Look out for more details for our film which will be screened and followed by a discussion on Saturday, February 19 at 3:30 PM.

These past two years of COVID have made all of us aware of what it feels like to be isolated, overwhelmed and to feel despair. Many of our congregants, young and old, with disabilities and marginalized identities have been living this reality for their entire lives. We have much to learn from each other about resilience and the power of community. To learn more, please join us in February for Jewish Inclusion Month programming:

Wed, August 10 2022 13 Av 5782