A Front Row Seat to Jewish Inclusion

by Marc Brenner

February’s Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month prompts me to reflect on the ways that inclusion and Jewish values are intertwined into my roles as a Keshet High School teacher and Keshet Site Director at ‘Z’ Frank Apachi. In these two different settings, I understand the significance of weaving Jewish values into the fabric of inclusion. My time at a Jewish camp and high school has instilled in me a commitment to fostering a community where everyone, regardless of their abilities or background, feels a sense of belonging.

My work at Keshet gives me the chance to cherish and actively promote inclusion within the community. Witnessing diverse students with unique abilities and backgrounds come together in a shared learning environment is incredibly rewarding. Through inclusive practices, I foster an atmosphere where every student feels valued, contributing to a more compassionate and understanding community. Since working for Keshet, I have been able to create a direct impact on both our school and camp communities at large. It’s amazing to see students and campers being afforded the opportunity to step out of their comfort zone and push boundaries.

Growing up locally in Highland Park and being very involved within the Jewish community, it warms my heart to see the ways people wholeheartedly embrace an organization like Keshet. Seeing the positive impact our participants have at both ICJA and ZFA resonates deeply with me. The essence of Jewish values, such as community, empathy, and acceptance, aligns seamlessly with the principles of inclusion. Witnessing students and campers step out of their comfort zones and push boundaries reflects the essence of Tikkun Olam, or “repairing the world.” It means creating an environment where diversity is not only accepted but celebrated, contributing to a compassionate and understanding community.

In my role, I am not just empowering our students; I am also educating the broader community about the capabilities and achievements of our diverse learners. This journey extends beyond academic growth; it’s about shaping a future where inclusivity is a cornerstone, and our students serve as catalysts for positive change. Moreover, being part of the journey as students with special needs integrate seamlessly into mainstream classrooms/are part of the community brings a smile to my face.

As a teacher, it’s not just about academic growth; it’s about cultivating an inclusive culture that prepares all students for a future where diversity is celebrated. Embracing this role enables me to advocate for the importance of inclusion and create a positive impact on the lives of my students and the broader community. It is not just about empowering our students but educating the world about what our students can do and have done.

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