Pittsburgh marks Jewish Disability Awareness Month

Pittsburgh marks Jewish Disability Awareness Month

February marks Pittsburgh’s fifth Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month (JDAM) as part of a nationwide campaign dedicated to raise awareness and fostering inclusion of individuals with disabilities in all facets of Jewish life.

Pittsburgh-area Jewish agencies and organizations, including Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JF&CS), the Agency for Jewish Learning (AJL), Friendship Circle, Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, the Jewish Community Center (JCC) and Jewish Residential Services (JRS) and many others work on a local level to provide ongoing programs, services and support addressing the needs, strengths, opportunities and challenges of people with disabilities in our communities.

“Our goal is to advance the quality of life, dignity, equality and freedom of choice of people with disabilities through ongoing advocacy, community education, counseling, support groups and extensive information and referral services,” Jordan Golin, director of Squirrel Hill Psychological Services, said in a prepared statement.

As part of JDAM, JF&CS and JRS will sponsor the workshop “Building Resiliency within Family Members,” a free, interactive program presented by Wendy Levin-Shaw, psychotherapist at Squirrel Hill Psychological Services, to address the lifelong process of caring for a loved one with a disability. The workshop will be held Monday, Feb. 11, 6:30 p.m. at JF&CS’s office at 5743 Bartlett St. Contact Linda Marino at lmarino@jfcspgh.org or 412-904-5945 for reservations.

The AJL, which annually sponsors a community lecture, will host, on Feb. 8 and 10, Devorah Zlochower of Riverdale, N.Y., who teaches Talmud at Yeshivat Hadar, and whose advocacy work has focused on religious feminism as well as on disability issues. The mother of two sons who have disabilities, Zlochower has written openly of having a family’s bifurcated life, where she and her husband, Rabbi Dov Linzer, lead typical professional lives in the Jewish world, but who have only found community with the families of children from their sons’ secular special needs school and camp.  

The Feb. 8 event will be a lunch and learn at the AJL in conjunction with the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinical Association.  On Sunday, Josh and Debbie Resnick will host a brunch and learning session with Zlochower speaking on, “In G-d’s Image If Not Our Own:  Raising and Educating Children with Special Needs.”  Contact AJL at tsteinberg@ajlpittsburgh.org for more information.

This year, there will be special Disability Awareness services at Congregation Beth El, Temple Ohav Shalom, and Temple David.  AJL consultant Joan Charlson has developed a special learning program for Beth El’s and Temple Emanuel’s confirmation classes.  Throughout the year, other synagogues hold special services and learning programs for their students. Others are encouraged to participate.  Programming assistance is available from the AJL by contacting Terry Steinberg at 412-521-1101, ext. 3206 or tsteinberg@ajlpittsburgh.org.

AJL’s Special Education and Inclusion programs receive funding from the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

JF&CS, AJL, Friendship Circle, Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and JRS will also sponsor a joint Pittsburgh conference with the PEAL Center, “Achieving Meaningful Participation through Inclusion,” on March 20, for parents of children and young adults with special needs and disabilities at Rodef Shalom Congregation. For more information or to register, visit pealcenter.org.