By COLlive reporter
The Ruderman Chabad Inclusion Initiative, intended to help Chabad centers to be even more welcoming to people with special needs, was officially launched on Motzoei Shabbos.
The project director Dr. Sarah Kranz-Ciment, PT, DPT, introduced the $1 million grant from the Ruderman Family Foundation, a philanthropic fund headquartered in Boston, to the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
The philanthropic fund has given the grant to Chabad to promote inclusion in some 25 centers worldwide.
Speaking at the Melaveh Malkah session of the Kinus Hashluchos in New York last week, Dr. Kranz-Ciment highlighted the values of inclusion for everyone and outlined the new project that will benefit people with disabilities.
“The Rebbe pioneered the concept of inclusion in its truest form: of valuing each person based solely on essence, and it is this message that has empowered Chabad Lubavitch to become experts on inclusion of each and every Jew,” she told a packed room of 2,000 Shluchos.
“When we undertake the Rebbe’s approach and work to apply it to every single person in the entire community, we make sure that nobody feels like an outsider, and we fundamentally establish a policy of inclusion.”
“This is not about ramps in your building or even providing funding for accessible programs,” she said. “It is about your father who lost his hearing; your grandmother in a wheelchair, your five year old with down syndrome and your next door neighbor who needs a service dog. Each of these people and more will be better served and feel more welcome in your Chabad House.
“A father of four once told me that his daughter with autism does not feel welcome in most synagogues in his town. ‘If 25% of my family cannot go somewhere, that means that 100% of my family does not go there,'” he said.
Kranz-Ciment called on communities “to change its mindset. This Initiative establishes inclusion as a matter of mentality, a point of cultural acceptance that goes far beyond the physical.”
25 Chabad centers internationally will be chosen to participate in the initiative during this 4 year pilot period. The initiative is geared towards informing and educating the Shluchim community about the benefits and practices of inclusion — not only for adults and children with disabilities, but for Chabad centers and programs.
This will be accomplished through developing training webinars for shluchim as well as a JLI course on Disabilities and Inclusion. The initiative will offer internships to train post-seminary students and camp counselors on best inclusion practices, which they will then implement in one of the 25 pilot communities.
At the conclusion of Dr. Kranz-Ciment’s presentation, more than 100 Shluchos lined up to apply for the 25 slots. Additional applications are still being accepted.
The Ruderman Family Foundation helps organizations by creating educational resources and materials for communal leaders around the world who will then disseminate them in their individual programs and centers. It chose Chabad as an organization that can spread the message of inclusion literally to every corner of the globe.
For further information, please contact Dr. Sarah Kranz-Ciment, [email protected]