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With February being Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), JCC Chicago is celebrating the occasion with multiple free events for the public.

Rena Rosen, the inclusion coordinator at JCC Chicago, said JDAIM is a time to raise awareness and champion the rights, gifts and strengths of Jews with disabilities to be accepted and included in the community.

“Inclusion is 365 days a year,” said Rosen. “While there is a month that celebrates the triumphs of the disability community, it acknowledges where we might need to work on more accessibility and inclusion. Communities across the country celebrate inclusion, and every community celebrates differently. We house a big constituency of community members, so inclusion is part of our DNA.”

Here’s a look at what JCC Chicago has lined up for JDAIM.

Virtual Screening and Talkback

On February 1 from 7 to 8:30 p.m., the JCC hosted a virtual screening of the of the award-winning short documentary “My Disability Roadmap” to kickoff the month. The film is about Samuel Habib, a 21-year-old, who wants to date, leave home and go to college. But he drives a 350-pound wheelchair, uses a communication device and can have a seizure at any moment. Determined to find his path forward, he seeks out guidance from America’s most rebellious disability activists.


Image courtesy of JCC Chicago

Rosen said the documentary is directed by Habib’s father and is a “fantastic” movie shining a light on the importance of inclusion. Before the film, disability advocate and author of “Demystifying Disability” Emily Ladau joined for a live virtual conversation. Afterwards, Rosen chatted with Habib.

“She and I talked about her experiences she has had, and what she hopes for future,” said Rosen. “I have been the inclusion coordinator for the last three years. There was no inclusion coordinator here before me. I value hearing from disabled people and their stories. I don’t want to share their experiences without hearing their voices. It informs our community that disabilities are a natural part of the human condition. “

Messy Day at the J

On Sunday, February 12, from 1 to 2:30 p.m., JCC Chicago will host Messy Day at the J — a sensory-friendly, JDAIM event for the whole family. Rosen said the program is geared toward children ages three to 10.

Families are invited to get messy with paint, kinetic sand, slime and more at Bernard Weinger JCC in Northbrook, Illinois. This program will be geared for children three to 10 years old and will feature moderate lighting to accommodate sensitivity to light, noise cancelling headphones and a quiet zone with fidgets for anyone looking to take a step away from the mess.

“Not everyone plays the same way, so having something that’s for everyone and where all needs can be met is important,” said Rosen. “Before COVID-19 we had a Messy Day at the J, and it was a big, messy day. Children got down and dirty and had a great time. But the goal is for the event to be sensory-friendly. We want everyone to feel welcome.”

Rosen said the phrase “Inclusion is in our DNA” is commonly used around the JCC. She said it serves as a reminder inclusion of those with disabilities is always at the forefront of their mission.

“We must have an inclusive mindset and think about how to best be accepting of different languages and needs,” said Rosen of all community rec centers. “It’s best to be proactive and not reactive. If we are not including people with disabilities in the conversation, then we are not hitting the mark. How can we make our community feel welcoming? Look for those answers and do something with them. Be okay with making mistakes and learn from our shortcomings.”


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John Reecer

John Reecer is an assistant editor at Peake Media.

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