(If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you’ve possibly already seen some of what’s about to follow. Sorry about that.)
I decided that I wanted to see if I could find any JDAM-related events happening in Indianapolis, so I did what any person these days would: I hit up Google for information. That led to an interesting result: the first five results in Google point to this blog.
Now, I’ll admit I was a little surprised. Not too surprised, but a little. After all, part of the motivation for my deciding to pursue rabbinical studies was because there wasn’t anyone doing anything systematic in the Indianapolis Jewish community about children with any number of special needs.
But I have to admit that I thought, “Maybe one of the synagogues will have something on their calendars that would be easily accessible via Google.” That’s why I did the search–I hoped that I would actually find something.
I was wrong. As it turns out, this blog basically owns “Jewish Disability Awareness Month” for Indianapolis, as far as Google is concerned. Which means that some portion of the population thinks that this blog is what is “out there” for our city.
So let me be clear: someone who looks for something in Indianapolis will conclude there’s a guy blogging and…nothing else. And there may be nothing heard from that person, ever again, because the institutional Jewish world in Indianapolis has given no substantial attention to JDAM this year.
And where there’s no programming, it’s pretty clear that there’s no real welcome in the community for the families who need help the most.
It’s probably a tad late to do much about the situation in Indianapolis, at least for this year. (Actually, I gave a talk yesterday on neurodiversity, but that was actually to a more strictly secular group, the Indianapolis branch of the Sunday Assembly movement.) But I would like to challenge you, reader, to do the same thing I suggested to those whom I know on Facebook.
Swap out “Indianapolis” for your community’s name, and add “jewish disability awareness month” to your search. What comes up on the first page? Is it a local Jewish organization’s calendar, or notice of a program? Is it something like this blog? Or is it something else entirely–maybe the Jewish Federations of North America’s page for JDAM in 2014, or the JDAM Facebook page?
Whatever it is, ask yourself whether that is the result you expected to find–and whether it is the result you think you should find. If you are disappointed, keep that in mind when you see difficulties with inclusion for Jews who are different–physically, neurologically, or otherwise.
Then do something. Because I have to be honest with you: those of us directly affected by the need for these services are often too busy maintaining where we are at to do much more in our own communities. We’re depending on you, because the angry parent in the corner of the room who’s just able to maintain his silence isn’t the person the community will listen to. That parent has got enough going on, anyway: a job (maybe two), a kid who needs more parenting help than many of the child’s peers, a stressed-out spouse and other family members, and less money because there are trade-offs that have to be made to make sure the child has the necessary support; and yet somehow, there is less time in the day than in the day of someone who works more hours.
We can’t always do it.
Some of us have started. We can’t do it ourselves. Mishnah Avot records Rabbi Tarfon as having said, “It is not incumbent upon you to finish the work–but neither are you at leisure to cease from it.”
Look at what your community is missing. Will you pitch in to make something better in 2015?