Making the community whole
The Greater MetroWest community is rich in services for those with disabilities. Greater MetroWest ABLE (Access, Belonging, and Life Enrichment for People and Families with Special Needs) is a network of community leaders and professionals who advocate for and support individuals with disabilities and their families. ABLE connects parents, professionals, synagogues, schools, and camps to the wide range of disability services in the community, including support groups, workshops, and grants for building enhancements. JESPY House and the Jewish Service for the Developmentally Disabled provide day and residential programs for individuals and their families. Federation partner agencies offer vocational, recreational, social, and educational programs for those with emotional, physical, neurological, developmental, visual, and hearing disabilities.
But as effective and extensive as these programs are, even more can be done. It has been more than 15 years since the community has conducted an extensive evaluation of disability services. In order to create a community that welcomes and encourages the active and meaningful participation of all its members, with opportunities for access to every aspect of Jewish life, a full and up-to-date picture is needed. As Dov Ben-Shimon, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, put it, “The more data we collect, the better we can advocate for, and meet the needs of, families in the community.”
To help in this process, the federation and ABLE are asking those with a disability, or their family members or caregivers, to take a few minutes to fill out a confidential survey at metrowestable.org/survey. The survey will help planners understand what they are doing well, and where the gaps are. The survey will remain open until May 22.
Jewish tradition teaches, “Do not separate yourself from the community” (Pirkei Avot 2:5). That is also an injunction to remove barriers and build bridges so that others will not be separated from the community because of their differences. It is the responsibility of all of us to make sure that we are creating spaces where everybody is able to take part.