SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ This month, Temple Sholom of Scotch Plains, NJ led by its Inclusion Task Force, commemorates Jewish Disability Awareness Month, a time to acknowledge the different needs of people in the community and ensure that the synagogue is accessible to all of them.

“In recognition that everyone has strengths and challenges and that all can be meaningfully included in Jewish life, the Temple Sholom Inclusion Task Force presents several activities in honor of Jewish Disability Awareness Month,” said Jill Harris, chairperson of the Inclusion Task Force.

On Feb. 1, Temple Sholom kicked off the month with an educational seminar for religious school staff entitled, “Building Understanding and Inclusion Among Children of All Abilities,” presented by Adrienne Robertiello, Autism Educator, Children’s Specialized Hospital. The seminar encouraged the staff to discover all the tools available to include people with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities in religious programs, activities and social interactions. Temple Sholom has a long history of personalized educational programs, one-on-one learning and meaningful b’nei mitzvah preparation for children with special needs.

“The Torah says that you should not put a stumbling block before the blind,” said Rabbi Joel Abraham of Temple Sholom. “Taking that commandment one step further, we believe that there should be nothing that keeps those who want to join us from participating as fully as they are able in our worship, education, social action, and other programs.”

At the Feb. 20, Shabbat service, congregant Rebecca Cohen will speak about her work as a disability rights advocate.  All congregants and community members are welcome to join the service at 7:30 p.m. at 1925 Lake Ave., Scotch Plains.

Throughout the month of February, Temple Sholom is hosting an art installation from the WAE (Wellness, Arts, Enrichment) Center.  Located in West Orange, the WAE Center is a holistic, expressive arts learning center for people with developmental disabilities. The art display features a “chair of inclusion,” a beautiful and dramatic representation of the notion that all people, regardless of challenges, deserve a seat at the table, whether that table is at home, work, school or worship. The artwork is a meaningful form of self-expression for the WAE center participants and a valuable learning opportunity for all who see it.  

Last summer, Temple Sholom became one of only five congregations in the Greater MetroWest region to be awarded a Synagogue Challenge Grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ’s Metro West ABLE, which coordinates a network of agencies and advocates that service special needs individuals and their families. Temple Sholom received the grant for installing an audio induction loop in its newly constructed building, allowing individuals with partial hearing loss to have better access to services and programs.

In addition, the synagogue building is all on one level with no steps inside and has movable chairs that allow infinite configurations for congregants and visitors with special seating needs, such as wheelchairs. For additional info about how Temple Sholom works to accommodate the needs of its community, e-mail sholom@sholomnj.org or call 908-889-4900.

About Temple Sholom
Founded in 1913, Temple Sholom is a Reform Jewish congregation led by Rabbi Joel N. Abraham and Cantor Darcie Sharlein. The temple and its religious school are home to about 250 families from the greater Scotch Plains-Fanwood area. The congregation recently moved to its new home at 1925 Lake Ave. in Scotch Plains. Temple Sholom is a member of the Union for Reform Judaism. For more information about the Temple or joining the congregation, please call 908-889-4900, e-mail sholom@sholomnj.org or visit www.sholomnj.org.