Federation CJA in Montreal is sponsoring several public events for Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), which is marked internationally throughout February. The goal of JDAIM is to ensure people with disabilities truly feel part of communal life, through greater accessibility, opportunity and understanding.
“Federation CJA has been positioning itself at the forefront of inclusion for several years now,” states a press release. “Through strategic investments, innovative programming and a vast network of service delivery agencies, (Federation) is actively working to ensure that Jewish engagement and learning opportunities can accommodate all members of the community; that people living with disabilities (and their families) can participate fully in all aspects of Jewish life; and that the organization itself becomes more intentionally inclusive in its approach and practices, while encouraging community partners to do the same.”
Approximately 16,000 members of the Montreal Jewish community over the age of 15 are living with a disability, according to Federation CJA.
Among the programs and services that the Federation has funded since 2001 are school-based academic intervention therapy, camp experiences, as well as supported employment and recreational programs.
Since 2016, Federation has increased its support for communal organizations that work with individuals and families living with disabilities by 41 per cent. Last year, more than 5,400 people with disabilities and their families were supported through 20 programs.
In 2018, Federation CJA became the first federation in Canada to have a full-time “community inclusion co-ordinator.”
“Inclusion is partially about removing barriers, such as making sure that Jewish spaces are handicap accessible and that there are employment opportunities for our young people with intellectual disabilities,” said the group’s president, David Amiel.
“It also means appreciating the diversity of our community and connecting to our Jewish values. A culture of inclusivity benefits us all.”
For the first time this year, Federation is partnering with other organizations for JDAIM, which began more than 10 years ago in the United States. The scheduled events include:
- A screening of the film Far From the Tree on Feb. 7 at 6 p.m. at Guzzo Mega-Plex Spheretech 14. The documentary is based on American author Andrew Solomon’s best-selling book about parents finding meaning by raising a child with special needs. Afterward, radio host Barry Morgan moderates a discussion among local community members who are dealing with this issue. This event is held by the Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy division.
- Three performances of Letter to My Disability take place on Feb. 9 and 10 at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts. The play follows the journey of teenaged Ellie, who finds out on her own that she has a developmental disability. It is described as “emotional, uplifting and perspective-changing,” and meant to encourage speaking “openly, honestly and without shame about the issues surrounding developmental disabilities.”
- Singing With Heart on Feb. 14 at 3:30 p.m. at the Cummings Centre features a performance by the Glee Club choir and special young adult guest singers, led by Cantor Daniel Benlolo of Shaare Zedek Congregation.
- On Feb. 24 at 10:15 a.m., the Jewish Public Library, in association with PJ Library, presents an American Sign Language Storytime geared to families with children age 12 and under.
“Inclusion is on our agenda all year long and JDAIM is a fantastic opportunity to highlight all the progress that is being made and the work we want to do going forward,” said inclusion co-ordinator Carly Goodman, who works with the Federation and the community organizations it funds.
“I hope everyone will show their support by coming out to an event and helping put Montreal on the Canadian JDAIM map.”
For more information on Federation CJA’s inclusion initiatives, visit federationcja.org/en/inclusion.