Jewish Journal

A Place At the Table

by Michelle K. Wolf

June 14, 2013 | 5:24 pm

Do you remember that feeling when you finally graduated from the “kid’s table” to the “grown up” table? At large family gatherings, the kid’s table was invariably a smaller, more flimsy table, shoved into some corner, or at the very far end of the main table, far enough away that you couldn’t really hear what was going on at the head of the table.

During this past week of graduations, awards, ordinations and celebrations, it seems that people with disabilities are beginning to get a seat at the main table, but we still need to set more places.

Reading through the passions of the “Outstanding Graduates” in last week’s print edition of the Jewish Journal, the words “special needs” and “disabilities” were mentioned over and over again. We have witnessed this personally, as volunteers who spend even a short amount of time with our son with special needs often come away transformed from the encounter, and determined to create a more inclusive community.

At the JFS/Chaverim event on Sunday honoring Sally Weber, the Jewish adults with developmental disabilities were literally the stars of the show, showing off their singing talents with no trace of stage fright.

On Monday night, we cheered as Danny’s Hebrew/Judaica tutor, Dov Gottesfeld, was ordained as a Rabbi by the Academy for Jewish Religion (AJR), and in the program, Dov wrote of his specialization in working with special needs students.

And the capstone event was the Tierra del Sol Foundation celebratory luncheon today at Sportsmen’s Lodge under the leadership of Steve Miller, CEO, who was part of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation’s Israel Special Needs Study Mission last summer.

Tierra is committed to empowering people with disabilities to fulfill their potential and desire to be productive citizens, as we all do. They accomplish this with post-high school educational programs, vocational training, internships, volunteer opportunities and paid employment, with a San Fernando/San Gabriel Valleys geographic focus.Like anyone else, young adults with disabilities need the chance to try out different jobs, and see what they like the most.

With over 800 people in attendance, today’s event was a chance to recognize the 144 community partners who provide volunteer, employment, education and transition assistance to over 600 adults with a wide range of disabilities. These partners include JFS/SOVA and the Jewish Home for the Aging Skirball Hospice, and a number of churches but unfortunately, not one synagogue --a real shanda in my humble opinion.

So let’s help enlarge the table for all—if any Jewish-affiliated agencies, shuls, schools or non-profits in the San Fernando Valley/San Gabriel Valleys want to be part of next year’s luncheon at Tierra del Sol, call 818 352-1419.

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