Pittsburgh Jewish Community’s Efforts on Inclusivity

Elana Naftalin-Kelman, Founder and Executive of Director of Rosh Pina, returned to Pittsburgh this week to meet with Jewish Residential Services, Jewish Family & Children’s Service and the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. Rosh Pina Cornerstone offers a year-long communal journey towards becoming more inclusive of people with disabilities. Elana came to Pittsburgh to wrap up the Rosh Pina exploration process and to certify three Jewish organizations as Rosh Pina Cornerstone certified. She also met with board presidents, agency executives and synagogue executive directors to expand the inclusion initiative to more Jewish organizations.

Representatives from the three Jewish organizations that participated in Rosh Pina discussed how their organizations had changed. These representatives found that some simple changes and staff training, most of which did not incur cash costs, resulted in greater openness and inclusivity. These changes included adopting inclusion language in event and program marketing; instituting regular staff training specifically on why inclusion is important; creating an event checklist to ensure events are open to people with both visible and hidden disabilities.

Elana and the three Rosh Pina certified organizations hope that more Jewish organizations will adopt the inclusion language. The new advertising or marketing states, “Full inclusion of people of all abilities is a core value of the Pittsburgh Jewish community. If you need accommodations to participate meaningfully, please contact…” Simply including this language and adding space for participants to request disability accommodations has expanded the number of participants who state disability needs for all three organizations.

All of the participants agreed to try to get more Jewish organizations to start a conversation about inclusion. Starting with human resources professionals, board-level champions and inclusion board committees at synagogues will be a starting point. The Rosh Pina exploration process also produced some easy-to-adopt shared resources such as building audits and event checklists. These resources will soon be posted on this website, so stay tuned.

Although all three Rosh Pina participants agreed that there is significantly more work to do within their organizations, expanding inclusion of people with disabilities was easier and less expensive than expected. The participants plan to encourage Jewish organizations to take the least expensive first steps in the coming year as well as to explore fundraising and other avenues to enable more costly changes.

For more information about Rosh Pina, www.rpcornerstone.org
Or to join in the conversation about Inclusive Pittsburgh, call Adam Hertzman at 412.992.5225

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