JFCS teaches inclusion for disability awareness


By Jewish Family & Community Services



          Dealing with a disability is often a voyage through uncharted waters. Having guidance and support from knowledgeable professionals can make all the difference.  The inclusion programs that JFCS has started allow families to feel less isolated as they make their way. It is hard to believe that as recently as three years ago, these programs didn’t exist, making it very difficult for our families to give their children a Jewish experience.  Going to services and  Sunday school, having a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, attending Jewish summer camp programs, all posed huge challenges or were simply impossible.  Due to the generosity of donors and people working hard to create these programs, along with increasing awareness, understanding and acceptance within our community, this is changing. 

          This change is huge for many area families who are so thankful that JFCS has undertaken the mission to ensure that every child, no matter how severe their disability, can enjoy a Jewish education, take part in Jewish traditions, and feel the acceptance of the Jewish community. The inclusion programs don’t simply allow these children to experience and be part of the Jewish community, they also allow the Jewish community to experience and be a part of the children’s lives:  to acknowledge, to understand, to accept, to include and most importantly, to care.  This is all the more important as the numbers of afflicted children becomes larger with each passing year. 

          The need for these programs has already doubled which is why the inclusion programs need to continue to grow and provide support for the children and their families, increasing the acceptance and understanding throughout our community.   This is possible, but only with your financial support. The programs created are enriching our children’s lives.  To have children going to the Galinsky Academy and receiving the extra help they need to succeed is terrific.  To know that our children can go to Sunday school and learn about their culture and heritage is wonderful.  To send our children to a Jewish day camp, and have an extra person to give them the help and support they need to be part of Jewish life with other kids, is amazing.  All of these are things that every parent wants for their child.  Unfortunately, with a disability, this isn’t always possible, and for most, it is financially impossible.
          Having a disability can be very isolating and lonely for both the person and their family. Stares, nasty comments, undeserved judgments can be heard to deal with but when it happens within out Jewish community, it hurts event more. One of the programs that helps combat this is the 'Sibling Support Group'. As mentioned previously, a disability affects not only the person, but the entire family.  How it affects a mother or father, brothers or sisters, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, is different.  The adults in the family can find support in several places, other family members, friends, support groups, and therapists, but until now, there has not been a support group for siblings. So often, it is the typical child that is forgotten: “they are fine”, or “they don’t need me like my other child does," are phrases that are often uttered. Some become 'the helper' or 'the protector', some may withdraw, and some may become angry.  Whatever the impact, these siblings are often going through it alone.  The sibling support group allows them to meet kids in similar situations and realize that they are not the only one dealing with this.  

          The continued support of this program and ones like it through the art of inclusion will not only change the lives of many Jewish children and families living with a disability, but it will also change the lives of those who are not.