Congregation B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim

Deerfield, Illinois, USA

Areas of Inclusion: Advocacy & Community Partnerships, Architectural & Physical Accommodations and Transportation, B’nai Mitzvah, Early Childhood Education, General Inclusion, Religious School, and Worship

About the Congregation

Congregation B'nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim

1201 Lake Cook Road

Deerfield, IL 60015

Number of Congregants: 1,050

Contact Information

Dr. Jeniffer Gendel, Director, Pritzker Pucker Keshet Inspire Center



Inclusion Programming

Does this congregation have an inclusion committee?


Developing Our Program

Our congregant, Jen Gendel, approached the senior staff with the idea to start an inclusion committee. She had noticed over the years that BJBE was already doing so much to support inclusion, but wondered if the common congregant was aware of these inclusion efforts. We started an inclusion committee that month and began to work with our Director of Communications to come up with a communication plan.

Number of people involved in the effort: 25

Involving People with Disabilities

Our committee is made up of people of all abilities, as well as the parents and grandparents of people with disabilities.

Funding This Effort

Our Special Needs Coordinator for our Sunday school is funded by a grant from CFJE, Community Foundation for Jewish Education. We pay our one-on-one aids to work with students who would benefit from individualized attention, from our school teaching budget.

We do not have a budget specifically for inclusion. Instead, for example, our low-sensory Purim carnival that we offer is funded from the Purim budget. This is an example of real inclusion, of which we are very proud. We do plan to raise money and apply for grants to help us attain more of our long-term inclusion goals, such as creating a Sensory Room at BJBE.

Helpful Agencies & Organizations

We are very fortunate that the head of our inclusion committee, Dr. Jennifer Gendel, Director of the Pritzker Pucker Inspire Center, is an expert in this field and is very connected throughout the country with other Inclusion specialists and organizations. She guides, inspires, and teaches us in so many ways.

Our synagogue is a proud member of HUGS [Healthy Understanding Growing Spaces], a collaborative effort of the Chicago North Shore synagogues, to provide meaningful holiday experiences for people with disabilities. Our synagogues take turns hosting events and bringing Jews with disabilities together from around the North Shore. This is our second year hosting the Purim Hamantashen Making event for Adults with Disabilities. Last year we had 35 people attend from around the North Shore and beyond.

We work closely with Keshet in many ways and support them and their mission. Our B’nei Mitzvah students volunteer with Keshet, through programs like Buddy Basketball. Students from Keshet help out at our Purim Carnival. Last year, Keshet came and facilitated an interactive program with our High School students to teach about what true inclusion looks and feels like. For our Adult Education, Keshet also facilitated a panel of congregants to talk about what inclusion looks like in congregational life. This panel was made up of people with disabilities and their families. We are grateful that Keshet provides BJBE with resources, education and support.

Our ECC Director, Susie Wexler, recently wrote a grant to bring in Matan to facilitate a survey for Early Childhood Centers in the North Shore Chicago area. We were proud to participate in this survey, and we are looking forward to what we can learn from the results.

Last year, thanks to an organization Encompass, a department of Jewish Child and Family Services in Chicago, our staff and lay leaders attended 4 workshops on different areas of inclusion. These workshops were inspiring and informative, and we brought what we learned back to our congregation.

For many years we employed adults with disabilities from an organization called Glenkirk, which provides housing, life skills, education, and resources for adults with disabilities. While it did not work out to continue to partner with Glenkirk in the same exact way this year, we look forward to finding other ways to partner in the future, and continue to support the employment of people of all abilities.

Spreading Awareness About Our Work

Our Director of Communications recently put out a Press Release to spread the word about BJBE’s inclusion efforts.

We advertise our inclusion efforts on our website, social media, in Chicago Jewish periodicals, and by reaching out to local organizations that we have built relationships. We publicize how BJBE’s building is fully accessible, with a ramp leading up to the bimah, and large buttons to open doors. We publicize that we provide wheelchairs at the entrance of our building, as well as large print prayer books for those who need.

In February, our clergy speak about inclusion from the bimah, continuing this important conversation among congregants. This year, the inclusion committee will set up a booth outside of Shabbat services each week of February, to handout our BJBE inclusion survey and to answer any questions that people have about inclusion at BJBE, as well as to raise awareness.

Process & Sharing

Marketing Documents Indicating Our Commitment to Inclusion

History, Materials & Processes that Guided Our Approach

A Press Release, Flyer for Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month, Hosting a HUGS event and our BJBE Inclusion Survey provided below.

Evidence of Successful Inclusion Efforts

This is something that we are hoping our BJBE inclusion survey will reveal. We have more students who benefit from one-on-one aids in our school attending youth group events then ever before. We continue to provide more and more individualized B’nei Mitzvah experiences for students with learning, emotional, and physical disabilities.

Evidence of Changing Attitudes

I know that having an inclusion committee has raised everyone’s awareness at BJBE and encouraged more conversation and careful consideration in everything we do at the synagogue. Whether it’s regarding physical space, or remembering that everyone learns and prays in his or her own way, having the committee has brought inclusion into daily conversation.

How We're Using and Sharing the Disabilities Inclusion Learning Center

We look forward to sharing these resources with our inclusion committee, our preschool teachers as well as our Religious School teachers, our Board of Directors and Senior Staff.

Future Inclusion Efforts

BJBE Inclusion Goals 2017-2018


o Registration materials -make sure we get information about students with disabilities on forms for 2018

o Purim carnival- continue to promote low-sensory carnival and see growth in attendance

o JDAIM activities- continue to participate in inclusion awareness Shabbat Across America, provide a handout about inclusion and congregants’ personal stories

o Hold a youth group event for teens with disabilities

o Create a more in depth training process for 1 to 1 assistant recruitment and training

Synagogue activities and events

o JDAIM sermon -yearly

o High Holidays-create inclusive opportunities and awareness

o JUF grant application

o Employ someone with disabilities at synagogue

o Host another HUGS event


o Complete a needs survey to congregants

o Provide information about driving committee to congregants

o Increase committee membership

o Find members with disabilities

o Make it even more known that BJBE supports individuals with disabilities who want a Bar/Bat Mitzvah

o Have a booth during Sunday School or Shabbat services to tell people about inclusion committee

5 year goals:

o Hebrew School Special Needs Coordinator in addition to Sunday School teacher

o Raise funds for a sensory room at the synagogue

o Revisit using PBIS in the school

o Bring in a speaker, entertainer or teacher with disabilities to educate

« Back to the Exemplar Congregations