February is Jewish Disability Awareness & Inclusion Month (JDAIM)
In May 2008 the Jewish Special Education International Consortium held its annual Colloquium in Minneapolis, MN. Two members, Lenore Layman, of the Partnership of Jewish Life and Living in Washington, DC, and Shelly Christensen, of the Jewish Inclusion Program for People with Disabilities at Jewish Family and Children’s Service in Minneapolis presented the idea of selecting a specific month in which all of our communities, far and wide, would hold conferences, events and community wide programming. Lenore and Shelly thought that if we all came together during one month, we could raise awareness to a broader extent, as well as share resources and ideas for programs.
This visionary group of professionals knew that inclusion was not on the radar in a lot of the organizations they supported with special education services. Great work was being done to educate children with disabilities, but it was time to move the communal culture to one where Jews of all ages, with any disability, could participate in the mainstream of Jewish life.
Since 2009, February has been officially known as Jewish Disability Awareness & Inclusion Month (JDAIM). JDAIM is a unified effort among Jewish organizations to raise awareness, to foster inclusion of people with disabilities, and their families, in Jewish communities worldwide.