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Conference Strives to Open the Gates of Torah to All Jews

November 26, 2013
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Shelley Cohen

Jewish Learning Venture will present an important community event for all who seek to make the Jewish community more accessible to those with special needs. The fifth annual Opening the Gates of Torah symposium will be staged on Sunday, Dec. 15, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., at Chabad of Montgomery County, 1311 Fort Washington Ave., Fort Washington.

Shelley Cohen, the founder and program director of The Jewish Inclusion Project, will discuss how to motivate spiritual leaders and lay volunteers to foster an inclusive Jewish community in our schools, synagogues, camps and other Jewish communal organizations.

The Jewish Inclusion Project’s mission is to educate and inspire rabbinical students and rabbis to create more inclusive synagogues, schools and summer camps that fully embrace the communal, social and religious needs of people with disabilities and their families.

It is estimated that 20 percent of American Jews have some form of physical, developmental or learning disability. “Because of attitudes and lack of services, these members of the Jewish people, and frequently their families, are being disenfranchised from a community that could greatly benefit from their inclusion,” said Cohen.

After Cohen’s keynote address, there will be three facilitated breakout groups on the topics of: self-advocacy; congregational inclusion; and day school and supplementary accessibility in the school setting. All participants are invited to meet members of the Jewish Special Needs Consortium and explore resources and services available in their community.

Cost is $18 per person. Register online at:

Child care is available free of charge: Parents must pre-register their children to participate in The Friendship Circle’s Sunday Circle (2 p.m. to 4 p.m. only) while they attend the keynote address.

The conference is supported by the Jewish Special Needs Consortium whose members include: The Jewish Federation of Greater Phil­adelphia; Einstein Healthcare Network; Federation Early Learning Services (FELS); The Friendship Circle; Jewish Community High School of Gratz College (JCHS); JEVS Human Services; Jewish Family and Children’s Services (JFCS); Judith Creed Homes for Adult Independence (JCHAI); Kohelet Foundation; OROT; Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC); Tikvah Family Camp; The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ); and The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

For more information, call Gab­rielle Kaplan-Mayer at 215-320-0376.

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