Jewish funders today are focused on the issue of Jewish continuity, and on ensuring the future survival of our community.

Summer camps, day schools, Birthright trips, youth activities, and the like are on the radar of Jewish philanthropists. But if these programs do not support the full inclusion of people with disabilities, then our community will cease to appeal to our youth – the very group funders are fixated on right now.

An inclusive Jewish community is an attractive one, especially for the younger generation. Young people value diversity, are socially active, work tirelessly for social justice, and believe firmly in tikkun olam (repairing the world). They fight and strive to achieve full inclusion everywhere. An exclusionary community is not an option for them.

An inclusive Jewish community also is strategic. Disabilities affect a significant portion of our community – not just people with disabilities, but their families and friends as well. We cannot afford to leave many members of our community on the outside, looking in.

The government estimates that almost 60 million people across the United States have a form of disability. That is approximately 20 percent of the population. Within the Jewish community, you probably know a family member, a neighbor or a friend with some form of disability. Is your community inclusive? Or are there barriers preventing people with disabilities from participating and becoming active members?

The full inclusion of people with disabilities is of paramount importance to the continuity and the future of Jewish communal life. The upcoming Advance: Ruderman Jewish Disabilities Funding Conference aims to put this issue on the agenda of Jewish funders.

The annual conference brings together philanthropists from around the world who want to build a stronger Jewish community by making their funding more inclusive. This year on May 8 in New York, they will learn how to support individuals, parents, families, and friends of those seeking to live a full, inclusive Jewish life. The goal is not to change their funding strategies but to make their funding more inclusive.

The conference partners with some of the largest Jewish organizations in North America, so they can ensure that their funders hear the inclusive message as well. Their commitment to engaging their funders in this effort will help make our community a more inclusive one, and that is good for everyone.

As a community, we champion many social causes. We are proud of our work to ensure social justice, a term rooted in Jewish tradition and literature. But there are still many members of our own community who feel excluded because of a lack of knowledge or pre-existing prejudices.

The work of full inclusion of people with disabilities in communal life must begin today if we are to ensure the continuity and survival of the Jewish community tomorrow.

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