Caring Connections brings the party to the party!
By Stacey Spencer • JFCS Inclusion Program Manager
Caring Connections is a JFCS program that provides valuable opportunities for people of all abilities to participate fully in Jewish life. It leads the Twin Cities Jewish community in becoming a more inclusive and welcoming space where all people with disabilities have the opportunity to participate in Jewish educational, spiritual, social and recreational activities.
When thinking about defining “inclusion,” it is not about just looking at people with special needs as a “them” or an “other,” according to standup comedian and disability advocate Pamela Schuller. It’s more about looking at our community as a “we”—with every person having something to offer.
It is not just making space for the “others,” but by seeing what the “others” bring to our community spaces and how they enrich and strengthen them.
For example, Caring Connections recently attended the Six13 concert at Adath Jeshurun Congregation. Six13 is a groundbreaking, six-man a cappella vocal group that brings an unprecedented style of Jewish music to the stage, with songs ranging from hip-hop dance tracks to rock anthems, using nothing but their voices. To say our Caring Connections participants enjoyed the concert would be a gross understatement. We LOVED the concert! The majority of the time, folks were singing, dancing, grooving, engaging, enjoying and participating.
When the singers asked if anyone would like to join them onstage for their last number of the evening, they did not have to ask twice. Many members rushed the stage and got right up there to boogie to the energetic music. I must admit, I think we were the liveliest, most ruach-filled people in the room. We were given the opportunity to lead the mojo and exuberant energy in the sanctuary by being free and uninhibited, which strengthened the Adath community that night. This demonstrates that inclusion isn’t always what we get, but also what we give.
Look how much better we are when we are all included. As Schuller says, “Inclusion is not about what we can’t do because people with special needs are a part of our community, inclusion is what we get to do!”
Thank you Adath Jeshurun, you helped create a community by making a space that night where everyone was a “we.” It really enriched and strengthened our Jewish community as a whole.
Caring Connections facilitates activities that connect people with disabilities to activities that celebrate Jewish life, holidays and traditions. For more information, contact Inclusion Program Manager Stacey Spencer at 952-542-4845 or firstname.lastname@example.org.