Congregation B’nai Tzedek formed a Special Needs Committee in 2009 to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment. The Special Needs Committee was renamed the Inclusion Committee in 2015 to reflect a synagogue-wide focus on ensuring that everyone feels welcome and a sense of belonging.
The mission of the Inclusion Committee is to ensure that ALL congregants have the fullest opportunity to participate in the educational, social, spiritual and recreational activities of the synagogue, to encourage an environment tolerant and accepting of individual differences, and to provide support to families with special needs and other challenges.
The Inclusion Committee has become an active, powerful voice in all aspects of the congregation. It is comprised of a wide range of parents and professionals with experience in serving the special needs population including pediatricians, psychologists, speech and language therapists, educators and attorneys. The Committee has raised funds, provided professional development opportunities for staff, provided resources to the preschool and Religious School staff, made connections in the broader Jewish disability community, and hosted speakers and awareness events for students, parents and staff. The Committee chair sits on the Board of Directors, and the former Committee Chair is now B’nai Tzedek’s Vice President of Education. The Committee’s ideas and activities have been praised and enthusiastically supported by the synagogue staff, clergy and lay leadership alike. Not only does the Inclusion Committee support congregants and families with special needs and other challenges, but it has also reached out into the community and established strong ties with residents from the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes (JFGH). JFGH residents often attend B’nai Tzedek’s services and programs and look forward to an annual Chanukah party each year that the Inclusion Committee co-hosts with the B’nai Tzedek Social Action Committee. B’nai Tzedek has received media attention for the Inclusion Committee’s work, and was even recognized as the “Most Inclusive Congregation” by the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes in 2014. Our congregation is a very welcoming, inclusive place.