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Inclusion: Because Everyone Belongs!

This post is part of a series written in recognition of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month by members of our community with a disability describing ways they feel included in our community.

Hi, my name is Hannah Keene and I would like to tell you how I feel included in the Los Angeles Jewish community.

I had the opportunity to work as a Ruderman intern at Jewish Federation Los Angeles this past summer. This was an internship for people with disabilities. Throughout my eighteen weeks with the Federation, I felt very welcomed. I learned a lot of new skills and got better with other ones.  One thing I learned was how to use Excel. I did a lot of data entry for various projects. I also did some photocopying, scanning and inventory.  I got to meet a lot of new people. One of my favorite moments was when we got to go to Cafe Federation (the 7th floor break room) and enjoy snacks and lunch with my friends and co-workers.  The people there were really nice to work with also.

Before I had the internship at the Federation, my parents learned about an organization called ETTA Israel (now called ETTA/Ohel). This is an organization that has a lot of programs for people with disabilities, such as Shabbatonim (retreats), summer camp, and other activities during the year. I am currently living in what is called an “independence building” house, through ETTA. In this house, we have a chore rotation, a shopping rotation, a cooking rotation, and a rotation for who is sending out the rent checks each month. I have been living there since December 2013, and it has been a great learning experience. I have three housemates and one roommate.

Another program I participate in that has made me feel included is Yachad. This is a program through the Orthodox Union. There are also retreats through this program. Like ETTA, you don’t have to be religious to join. One enjoyable experience was when I spent the evening with the director of Yachad, who invited me to have dinner with her so she could get to know me better. It was not a staff meeting; it was just her and me! I have been given a lot of new opportunities through Yachad, like leading a DWP training session that teaches water and power conservation.

I feel included when I participate in these programs because I know I am accepted there, even though I have a disability.

Hannah is a 28-year-old living in Los Angeles. She enjoys reading, watching television, hanging out with family and friends and seeing good movies.

Jewish Federation Los Angeles believes that everyone in our community should have the opportunity to experience and celebrate our shared values, history and traditions. Making Jewish life more accessible for all is one of our top priorities, which is why we are part of a national effort to raise awareness about members of the Jewish community with disabilities. Go to www.JewishLA.org/Inclusion for more information.

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