Shelly Christensen

Shelly Christensen

Shelly Christensen, MA literally wrote the book on inclusion of people with disabilities, the Jewish Community Guide to Inclusion of People with Disabilities. Her award-winning work as Program Manager of the Minneapolis Jewish Community Inclusion Program for People with Disabilities at Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis led her to co-found Jewish Disability Awareness Month with the Jewish Special Education Consortium in 2009. Shelly’s work as founder and Executive Director of Inclusion Innovations, where she provides training, organizational and community development, and strategic planning so Jewish organizations and communities can become more welcoming and inclusive, is the standard in the field of sacred community inclusion.

Shelly is a graduate of the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities at the University of Delaware which, she writes, “Changed everything I believed about including people with disabilities and their families in the Jewish community and transformed my work as a change leader.” She is co-founder and faculty member of the new Jewish Leadership Institute on Disabilities and Inclusion funded by the Ruderman Family Foundation. Shelly speaks at national and international conferences including Union for Reform Judaism Biennial, ADVANCE, Jewish Federation of North America’s General Assembly, the 2012 Disability Inclusion Initiative, the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and World Union for Progressive Judaism. Shelly serves as adjunct faculty for the Union for Reform Judaism and in June, 2014 became the president of the Religion and Spirituality Division of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Her articles on inclusion and parent perspectives have appeared in journals, and she has published chapters in a number of books.”

Shelly is the mom of three sons, Aaron, Jacob and Zac, and is now mother-in-law to Nancy and the over the moon Bubie to 5 month old Eli. As the parent of a son who was diagnosed with a number of disabilities throughout his school career, Shelly learned to navigate the secular educational world out of the need to ensure Jacob had the educational opportunities that might have been denied him by becoming his advocate. Their synagogue and the religious school provided Jacob and family much appreciated respite from the secular school world because, as Shelly says, “Jacob was just Jacob. He was always treated with respect, appreciation and understanding that he needed some supports in order to learn, be a contributing member of his class and be seen as “Just Jacob.” Jacob is a recent graduate from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Sociology and with an associate degree in Political Science. He is working with an organization in Minneapolis called “Autism Works” which supports people to achieve meaningful employment opportunities.

Shelly and her husband Rick live in Minneapolis with their Sheltie, Yafi.

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