Federation CJA's Women's Philanthropy held a powerful evening recently as part of the celebration of Jewish Disability, Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month (JDAIM) throughout North America.
The event at the Guzzo Mega-Plex Spheretech cinema in St. Laurent included a screening of the heartwrenching and hopeful documentary Far From the Tree, based on Andrew Solomon's book of how families meet various challenges. Those profiled include Solomon himself, who came out as gay to his at first unaccepting family; as well as children and adults with autism, Down Syndrome, dwarfism, and in one case, a son who murdered a child.
Following the screening was a panel discussion featuring individuals facing challenges — former CJAD broadcaster and current voice-over artist Barry Morgan, who has a son with autism; family lawyer Sheri Spunt, whose sister has Williams Syndrome, a developmental disorder; and accountant Michael Lifshitz, who has Multiple Congenital Musculoskeletal Abnormalities.
"At the end, a person with a disability is a person," Lifshitz reflected.
Spunt agreed. "What we should take away from here tonight is compassion, and love, and everyone should be treated equally," she said.
Federation CJA representatives said the organization's commemoration of JDAIM is part of its "ongoing commitment to fostering a culture of inclusivity that is accessible to all."
“Inclusion is partially about removing barriers, such as making sure that Jewish spaces are handicap-accessible and that there are employment opportunities for our young people with intellectual disabilities,” stated David Amiel, President of Federation CJA. “It also means appreciating the diversity of our community and connecting to our Jewish values. A culture of inclusivity benefits us all."
A Federation CJA statement points out that 16,000 people over the age of 15 "live with a a disability in the Montreal Jewish community today."
Local events for JDAIM include the Far From the Tree screening last week, the play Letter To My Disability this past weekend at the Segal Centre, the Singing With Heart Choir Performance Thursday, Feb. 14, 3:30 pm at the Cummings Centre for Seniors; and American Sign Language Storytime Sunday, Feb. 24, 10:15 am at the Jewish Public Library.
"Inclusion is on our agenda all year long, and JDAIM is a fantastic opportunity to highlight all the progress that is being made, and the work we want to do going forward," said Carly Goodman, Federation CJA’s Inclusion Coordinator.
For more information on Federation CJA's Inclusion initiative, go to federationcja.org/en/inclusion/.