The Purpose Behind JDAIM
By Amy R Weinstein (Shapiro)
Cantor Seth Warner recently delivered a sermon explaining that “Jews are taught to ask questions.” In that spirit, some of you might be asking what is JDAIM? And why does JDAIM play such an important role within Judaism? As a member of the Congregation Shaare Emeth community who feels passionately about this topic, it’s my honor have been asked to help answer these questions.
Jewish Disability Awareness/Acceptance Inclusion Month (JDAIM) takes place every February to celebrate inclusion for individuals who have disabilities and mental health conditions. JDAIM was founded by Shelly Christensen in 2009 in Minneapolis. “Shelly and her colleagues felt that 20% of the Jewish population with disabilities did not feel included within their community!” (Jewfolk, 2021) JDAIM includes programs and events nationwide where professionals, families, friends, and colleagues come together to educate, advocate, raise awareness, and provide opportunities for inclusion. JDAIM takes place in February because there are no Jewish holidays! The mission to provide opportunities for inclusion does not stop once February is over – JDAIM is intended to be a call to action where people honor the gifts and strengths that all people possess and feel seen and heard.
Congregation Shaare Emeth’s JDAIM Shabbat on Friday, February 16 will feature Charlie Kramer, a disability life coach, speaker, and musician. Charlie helps people with special needs ‘learn to not only accept their disability, but provide them with the tools to love being disabled, and fully integrate it as a strength in their life.’ (Kramer) In addition to sharing his musical talents during the service, Charlie will be the evening’s speaker, delivering the JDAIM Shabbat sermon. Charlie gives people a perspective they might not have thought about, identifying the positive, life-changing opportunities that can happen regardless of a diagnosis of a disability, and promotes accepting and living with a disability, and thriving. Audiences of Charlie’s dynamic presentations leave with opened minds and a clearer understanding and awareness of ableism.
As Jewish people, we have an obligation to open spaces throughout our community so that everybody feels included. All people want is to feel accepted, seen, and heard. It is crucial to break the barriers of fears that people have behind the word ‘disability’ so that everybody feels safe. People with disabilities are everywhere and it is important to break the stigma of disability so that those who are young and/or elderly do not feel fearful to stand out to embrace who they are because “Fears are when you are alone…” (Warner, 2023). When you choose to be involved within your Jewish community, you are not alone. There is nothing to fear when you want to find somewhere to feel accepted, inspired, and loved.
Anne Frank once said, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” We can all start improving the world now by recognizing the abilities of those who have disabilities. It’s important to provide opportunities that involve Jewish Disabilities Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion to support ALL of our community and embrace and celebrate the fact that everybody is different.
- Anne Frank – how wonderful it is that nobody need wait a… – brainyquote.
- Kramer, C. (n.d.). Disability life coach – Charlie Kramer. Charlie Kramer Vision.
- Jewfolk, Inc. (2021, February 7). Who the folk?! podcast: Shelly Christensen on Apple Podcasts. Apple Podcasts.
- Warner, S. P. (2023, December 1). Upcoming Services. Congregation Shaare Emeth.