A Place And Space For NYC’s Jewish Women With Disabilities And Their Allies


It is a joy and an honor to bring together NYC’s Jewish community, disability community, and women’s community, to come together in a shared space. In this space, we are co-hosting what feels more and more like an adult b’not mitzvah – honoring, upskilling, and empowering NYC’s Jewish women with disabilities and their allies.

On Sunday afternoon, February 24th (during JDAIM/NAIM), we will convene under the hospitable, accessible roof of Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan for RespectAbility’s free Empowerment Training for Jewish Women with Disabilities and their allies. NYC’s remarkable Jewish women with disabilities and their allies will gather to learn and grow. B’Yachad, together, we will weave our rich stories into a tapestry; a tapestry woven with a wide variety of textures and hues, stitched together with heart, compassion, pain, resilience, laughter, love, learning and listening. Jewish sisterhood at its finest.

The training consists of a distinctive panel of impressive self-advocates – Ila Eckhoff, managing director at BlackRock; Amy Rosenfeld, librarian at JCC Manhattan; and Dr. Danielle Sheypuk, sexpert – and will be moderated by the trailblazing Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, CEO of the Rabbinical Assembly. Following the notable panel will be a moving piece, Life Day!, artistically addressing mental health conditions, by Rachel Kundstadt; and an interview I will conduct with Lori Golden, Ernst & Young’s thought-provoking Abilities Strategies leader, addressing Spinning One’s Story into Self-Advocacy. After some networking we will reconvene for small group-facilitated discussions around Taking Charge of Your Self-Care and Self-Advocacy; followed by the venerable Eve Landau leading the way for a hands-on session, Taking Action & Getting Involved in NYC’s Civic Life. RespectAbility’s valiant co-chairs of its Jewish Inclusion committee, the notorious duo Shelley Cohen and Vivian Bass, will open and close the training with their words of wisdom. And, as a musician, I had to ensure that music sets the training’s tone, with thanks to singer/songwriter Joanie Leeds. It’s quite an ambitious, action-packed afternoon!

The training could not have happened without our organizational allies; aka, our ‘collaborators’: Jewish organizations that recognized the need to come together to lift up our Jewish women with disabilities and their allies. Some of the organizations are leading the way, thoughtfully serving Jews with disabilities; others recognize room for improvement. (Noting that ~20% of all Jewish women and girls have a lived disability – visible and/or invisible; such as anxiety, depression, attention or learning disabilities.)

These cherished collaborators are: Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan; B’nai Jeshurun; New York Board of Rabbis; the Rabbinical Assembly; UJA Federation of New York; Jewish Women International; Camp Ramah; YACHAD; Repair the World; The Jewish Inclusion Project; Alliance for Girls; Limmud, and Yad HaChazakah-Jewish Disability Empowerment Center.

I feel incredibly enriched to be working with all the visionary women and men in our collaborative shtetl, turning the vision of RespectAbility’s President, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, into reality. Much thanks to our funders, the New York Women’s Foundation and the Coca-Cola Foundation.

To quote one of my favorite linguistic images from the Torah when we were at Sinai: “And all the people saw the voices.” (Exodus 20:15) We all see / hear things differently, and all have our own unique voice to contribute.

RespectAbility’s upcoming training brings up multiple visual images and sounds: a quilting bee; a barn raising; a spiritual tapestry; a (female) barbershop quartet; chamber music. . . . Collaboration that results in a harmonious experience, lifting others up for the greater good of our People – K’lal Yisrael – and humanity – Tikkun Olam. And we who labor to create such experiences are also lifted up along this journey.

Please join our empowering shtetl for this enriching experience. Bring an ally, a friend, a neighbor, a colleague. We guarantee the following to those who participate. You will:

Because …

Henei ma tov u’ma naim / shevet achayot b’yachad.

Here is what is good and what is nice / sitting together as sisters.

And if you can’t sit with us in person, sit with us virtually, by signing up for our webinar (covering the panel only).

Secure your space today – be a part of our shtetl – and yes, there is such thing as a free (and kosher) lunch!

DATE: Sunday, February 24, 2019

TIME: 12:30 – 1:00 PM: Registration & Refreshments

1:00 – 5:00 PM: Training and Networking

PLACE: Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan Auditorium 334 Amsterdam Ave at 76th St.,

New York, NY 10023

Debbie Fink serves as Director of Community Outreach and Impact for RespectAbility.