JDAIM Blog #3: V’Ahavta Lereiacha Kamocha — A Keshet Value and Tie to Inclusion within the Jewish Community

This is the third in a series of blogs written by members of Keshet’s community for Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month.

by Robyn Reiser

Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month takes place in February. As I sit here and reflect on my time teaching at Keshet, I am able to recall the many moments of inclusivity that my students have been able to experience within the walls of their Keshet classrooms and the outside Jewish community.

The Chicagoland Jewish Community is vast and represents an array of Jewish organizations that make it easy for everyone to find a place to feel connected to their Jewish identity. One may search for an inviting Jewish organization to join that shares their values and consequently, can find a place where they feel they are respected and belong.

On the flip side, many people have the desire to be included but do not necessarily have the ability to independently access a welcoming community. This is often the case for the individuals that I work with in Keshet. I teach at Keshet during the week currently with people ages 18-22 in the Transition Program. I also teach adults at the Keshet Sunday School, ranging in ages from 18-60. In my Judaics classes, we cover many aspects of Judaism: Shabbat, Holidays, Parsha, different customs, symbols and music.

My students are fortunate to be participants in Keshet, an organization which values inclusion and acceptance. As a teacher and community member, I feel fortunate that we have been included by other Jewish organizations within the community that share our values. Keshet and these other organizations have imparted on my students the most important teaching that I feel Judaism has to offer: V’Ahavta Lereiacha Kamocha, or love your neighbor as yourself.

In the years that I have been teaching at Keshet, my students and I have been fortunate enough to experience V’Ahavta Lereiacha Kamocha often. For the first time since the pandemic began, this year Keshet joined the community of Skokie Valley Synagogue for a Sukkot Party where we were able to intermingle with community members in song, art, blessings in the Sukkah, and breaking bread together.

Additionally, over the years, I’ve seen students volunteer at the Chicago Center, the Chicago Chesed Fund, the Ark and more. I’ve seen them work alongside other community members to connect on their common value of V’Ahavta Lereiacha Kamocha and make sure people with less have what they need.

Keshet values community and inclusion and makes sure that the students who attend always have a home within the program walls as well as opportunities to engage with the community at large. And of course in everything we do, we ensure to instill shared value of V’Ahavta Lereiacha Kamocha! I feel blessed to experience seeing these values lived out on a regular basis at the place I am so grateful to work.

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