Credit: Ron Almog רון אלמוג from Herzliya (הרצליה), Israel (ישראל)

By Jay Ruderman/

Jewish funders today are focused on
the issue of Jewish continuity and ensuring the future survival of our
community. Summer camps, day schools, Birthright, youth activities and the like
are on the radar of Jewish philanthropists. But if these programs do not
support the full inclusion of people with disabilities, then our community will
cease to appeal to our youth–the very group funders are currently fixated on.

Click photo to download. Caption: Jay Ruderman. Credit: Ruderman Family Foundation.

An inclusive Jewish community is an
attractive one, especially for the younger generation. They value diversity,
are socially active, work tirelessly for social justice and believe firmly in tikkun
(repairing the world). They fight and strive to achieve full inclusion
everywhere. An exclusionary community is not an option for them.

An inclusive Jewish community is
also strategic. Disabilities affect a significant portion of our community–not
just those with disabilities, but their families and friends as well. We cannot
afford to leave many members of our community on the outside, looking in.

The government estimates that almost
60 million people across the U.S. have a form of disability–approximately 20
percent of the population. Within the Jewish community, you probably know a
family member, a neighbor or a friend with some form of disability. Is your
community inclusive? Or are there barriers preventing people with disabilities
from participating and becoming active members?

The full inclusion of people with
disabilities is of paramount importance to the continuity and future of Jewish
communal life. The upcoming ADVANCE: Ruderman Jewish
Disabilities Funding Conference
aims to put this issue on the agenda of Jewish funders.

The annual conference brings
together philanthropists from around the world who want to build a stronger
Jewish community by making their funding more inclusive. This year on May 8 in
New York, they will learn how to support individuals, parents, families and
friends of those seeking to live a full, inclusive Jewish life. The goal is not
to change their funding strategies but to make their funding more inclusive.

The conference partners with some of
the largest Jewish organizations in North America, so they can ensure their
funders hear the inclusive message as well. Their commitment to engaging their
funders in this effort will help make our community a more inclusive one, for

As a community, we champion numerous
social causes and are proud of our work to ensure social justice, a term rooted
in Jewish tradition and literature. But
there are still many members of our OWN community who feel excluded because of
a lack of knowledge or pre-existing prejudices.

The work of full inclusion of people
with disabilities in communal life needs to begin today to ensure the
continuity and survival of the Jewish community tomorrow.

Jay Ruderman is the President of the
Ruderman Family Foundation. The upcoming ADVANCE conference on
May 8 is a partnership of the foundation with the
Jewish Funders Network, Jewish Federations of North America, the American
Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
and Combined Jewish Philanthropies in Boston.

Download this story in Microsoft Word format here.

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