This week, Stephanie and I found out that Nadav (our eight month old son) was not selected to be the "2018 Gerber Baby." As disappointed as we are, it's hard to argue with Gerber's selection of Lucas Warren, a one year old from Dalton, Georgia. Lucas' smile is infectious. He is energetic and loves music. He is outgoing and waves at everyone he sees. Lucas also has Down Syndrome. In a statement, the CEO of Gerber said that "Every year, we choose the baby who best exemplifies Gerber's longstanding heritage of recognizing that every baby is a Gerber baby. This year, Lucas is the perfect fit."
Katie Driscoll, founder and president of Changing the Face of Beauty, a non-profit organization committed to advocating for equal representation of people with disabilities in advertising and media, says brands like Gerber have the power to change the future of the disability community. I think we have the power to do so as well, with regards to the disability community and synagogue life.
February is Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM). The Mission of JDAIM is to unite Jewish communities worldwide to raise awareness and champion the rights of all Jews to be included and to participate in all aspects of Jewish life. Just as every baby is a Gerber baby, every member of our community, regardless of intellectual or physical ability, is a full member of our community, and should have access to inclusion in all areas of synagogue life.
Please join us after Taste of Shabbat Services, for our Midrash Shabbat learning session, where we will use tradition and texts to help guide us on our exploration of disabilities and inclusion in our synagogue community, both in terms of raising awareness of challenges that are faced and resources that are available, as well as discuss how our community can be more accessible to all. We welcome Wade Barber, who personally and professionally, is an advocate for disability and inclusion, and will lead us in a conversation on some of the challenges with inclusion in Jewish community, raising awareness and providing us with strategies as we strive to be a more inclusive community.
Tradition teaches us that every person was created
Beztalem Elokim, in the image of God. Which is why it is my hope and prayer that by raising awareness and advocacy, we can create a community that is truly inclusive and welcoming. We can create a community that embraces and celebrates the divine in everyone.