Creating a True Community of Belonging
“To create a true Community of Belonging” – that’s a pretty big goal and a part of my job description as the Director of Inclusion here at Temple Emanu-El. But, this is not a lofty aspiration, it is a Jewish way of life. B’tzelem Elohim – to see the image of God within each other, what a beautiful way to live life.
Our Inclusion Working Group, chaired by Rhoni Golden, held a Community Read/ Movie Night and Discussion to bring us all together to focus on the very real issues involved in creating that place and feeling of belonging. Special thanks to our Sisterhood for sponsoring the event and making it possible.
Inclusion is not a new idea here at Temple. We have a long and strong history of working on inclusion – even winning an award from the JFS Special Needs Partnership for making such a difference in the disability community in Dallas. For more than 20 years, we have ensured that our YL+E programs are able to provide a Jewish education to all students, including those who have learning disabilities, Downs Syndrome, autism and students who are nonverbal, just to name a few of the ways our 76 Lomdim students represent neurodiversity. Our ECEC also provides a rich experiential education to all types of learners and has a full-time staff member dedicated to inclusive practices. Rabbi Rossel also leads Shabbat B’Yachad, providing a welcome space for families and children with disabilities to join in community and friendship to share Shabbat in a beautifully loving way. And, we have just added a book club for adults with IDD and are working on a respite program for our congregants.
The question remains: what can we each do to welcome each other, to make everyone feel they belong? Listen to our panel of congregants and Rabbi Amy Rossel share their thoughts about how we can all do our part to make Temple Emanu-El a true “Community of Belonging.”