This is the second in a series of blogs written by members of Keshet’s community for Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month.
by Jori Erlander
February is Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month. This month allows me the opportunity to pause, and reflect on my passion, purpose, and goals within my role at Keshet.
My role as a social worker in Keshet’s education department allows me to collaborate with extremely passionate and dedicated colleagues on how we can best serve our students and families, both at school and within the community. Reflecting back on the past three years I’ve been at Keshet, I have learned how difficult it can be for individuals with varying skills and abilities to receive impactful therapy and purposeful education. With the support of the community at Keshet, from my colleagues to all of the Keshet families, I feel empowered to challenge myself to learn and advocate for our students and participants every day.
One of the unique aspects of working at Keshet is being able to develop new inclusion opportunities between students at Keshet and Solomon Schechter Day School. Keshet staff provide education to Schechter students around disability awareness through both presentations and the Peer Buddy program, where Keshet and Schechter students have a set time each week to do fun activities together! Seeing them start to form meaningful relationships with one another and a newfound passion, and understanding, for inclusion is exciting and heartwarming.
Since the pandemic, we are finally at a point where Schechter and Keshet students are able to come back together! Students from Keshet attend classes and activities with Schechter students such as Physical Education, Art Class, Art Club, Music and Recess. We have seen wonderful friendships form through these interactions, which have led to more activities outside of the school setting. At the beginning of the school year, Keshet and Schechter students attended a community service based field trip where they packaged deliveries for Rosh Hashanah. On the field trip, two girls (one Keshet student and one Schechter student) hit it off and a strong friendship was built. The parents were able to connect and the girls went to see a movie together! Most recently, I also had a parent from Schechter reach out to me to assist in contacting the family of a Keshet student to invite them to their children’s B’not Mitzvah. What a joy to help be a part of facilitating what I hope will be a long term friendship!
In the year ahead, I look forward to learning about new and innovative ways to provide inclusive educational opportunities for Keshet students. With the unwavering support of my Keshet colleagues and the community, we will strive to deliver effective services, resources, and opportunities for all of our students.