Federation CJA marks Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month

From left, Karen Soussan (President, Women’s Philanthropy), Lori Abramowitz (Co-Chair, Movie Night Event), Lisa Farber (Co-Chair, Movie Night Event), Ilana Dray (Co-Chair, Movie Night Event), Barry Morgan (Event Q&A Moderator), Sheri Spunt (Event Q&A Panelist), Joy Gornitsky (Co-Chair, Women’s Philanthropy West Island), Heidi Sklar (Co-Chair, Women’s Philanthropy West Island), and Lydia Hazan (Co-Chair, Connections, Women’s Philanthropy)

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/.

Recommended for you

(1) comment


Was a great event and was honoured to be a part of it. Discussions in inclusion are important. For example, when doing a caption on a photo, you should include all people, not just the people standing behind the wheelchair. :) P.S. Thank you for the comedy material. An article on inclusion and you forget the guy in the wheelchair from the photo caption. I love it! :)

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.