Areas of Inclusion: Adults in Communal Life, Architectural & Physical Accommodations and Transportation, B’nai Mitzvah, Early Childhood Education, General Inclusion, Religious School, and Youth Group, High School, and College Programming
About the Congregation
670 Highland Avenue
Needham, MA 02494
Number of Congregants: 2,729
Sara Wittenberg, Learning Specialist
781-444-0077 ext. 26
Temple Beth Shalom is a vibrant Reform Jewish congregation that welcomes individuals and families of diverse backgrounds and ages. We dedicate ourselves to the practice of our religious and spiritual traditions, to the study of our sacred teachings, to lifelong Jewish learning, and to social action locally and globally. As a caring community, we strive to meet the spiritual, intellectual, social, and cultural needs of each member of our Temple family and to create connections within our membership. We offer our members a variety of ways to make a personally meaningful and joyful connection to Judaism through participation in worship, life celebrations, learning and community service. We advocate full equality and encourage participation in congregational life. We support the State of Israel and Jewish people throughout the world.
Does this congregation have an inclusion committee?
Number of people involved in the effort: We have about 55 people who are actively making Temple Beth Shalom a fully inclusive synagogue. These people fall into one or more of the following categories:
Children's Center Director and Teachers (Pre-K)
Mayim (K-5), Gesher L'Noar (6-7), Sha'arim (8-12) Director, Educational Leadership, and Jewish Learning Guides
Inclusion Task Force
Mikdash Committee (planning for new building)
Involving People with Disabilities
People with disabilities have been included in these programs by offering opportunities for ALL congregants to be part of the committees listed above. In addition, our PreK-12 and adult learning programs include all people by creating a space for all learners, regardless of ability. Each person is taken into consideration and accommodations are created for anyone who needs them. The Inclusion Task Force (ITF) is made up of adults with disabilities, parents of children with disabilities, and professionals who work with people with disabilities on a regular basis. The ITF also created a survey, which was sent out to the congregation. This survey allows people to anonymously indicate what types of needs are in our community. There is also an option to include a name and to offer to be an ambassador to the Inclusion Task Force.
Funding This Effort
A Gateways grant provides funding for our learning programs (PreK-12) and part of the salary for the K-12 Learning Specialist, Sara Wittenberg.
Our Mikdash Campaign has been raising money to create a new building, which will be fully accessible for all congregants.
Helpful Agencies & Organizations
Gateways has been supportive to Learning Specialist, Sara Wittenberg, by providing a community of people with similar challenges in each synagogue. This allows everyone to learn from each other.
Gateways also provides materials and support for the Madrichim Training Program (teen teaching assistants).
List of Helpful Agencies & Organizations
Spreading Awareness About Our Work
We are currently figuring out how to let people know about what we offer. Word of mouth and our website vision statement have been our primary resources. The survey created by the ITF has also allowed this to be known. We are planning to establish a web-based tool called "Ask the ITF" (Inclusion Task Force). This resource would be a repository for information about inclusion, a place where congregants can ask inclusion-related questions and make recommendations for continuing improvement.
ITF Chair, Dr. Jerome Schultz, a Clinical Neuropsychologist, spoke at the kick-off of the Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project Event in 2014.
Learning Specialist, Sara Wittenberg, presented workshops at GISHA in 2014 and 2015.
Our Learning Specialist runs a monthly Parent Group. We are looking to work with two other local congregations this coming school year to create a larger community.
Process & Sharing
Marketing Links Indicating Our Commitment to Inclusion
Marketing Documents Indicating Our Commitment to Inclusion
- Temple Beth Shalom Website - Vision and Mission Statement
- Temple Beth Shalom Mayim - Addressing the Diverse Needs of Our Learners
- Temple Beth Shalom Inclusion Task Force Survey Flyer
Evidence of Successful Inclusion Efforts
We see that people with disabilities are taking part in our events and ask questions about what is offered to assist them. Our learning programs have documentation of children on IEPs and 504s in their primary school settings, which is confidential.
Evidence of Changing Attitudes
We are always working to educate people. It is not something we can do just one time.
The chair of the TBS ITF addressed the TBS Board and Leadership Council to educate, elicit suggestions, and further the inclusion agenda at ITF.
TBS president, Ed Zaval, attended two Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project Meetings in the Boston Area.
Dr. Jerome Schultz distributed the Synagogue Inclusion Toolkit to the Leadership Council with the request that inclusion-related issues be considered at all TBS-sponsored events.
We had Justice Richard Bernstein, Michigan Supreme Court Justice who has been blind since birth, address our congregation in Feb. 2015 to commemorate February as Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month (JDAM).
On, Friday May 29th, 2015 a seventh grade class spoke at Friday evening services to share their views on inclusion based on what they learned in class this spring. They also created a video of their inclusion efforts to share as well. With the help of Dr. Jerome Schultz, their recommendations for accommodations in the new building were taken to the architects. Congregants who attended this service were inspired to continue this effort.
How We're Using and Sharing the Disabilities Inclusion Learning Center
We have been using the Disabilities Inclusion Learning Center with educators regarding diverse learners. The K-5 Jewish Learning Guides were challenged to watch a minimum of two videos and fill out a Google Spreadsheet indicating what they were going to try differently in their classrooms. It inspired many of them to watch more than just two. This coming year, 6-12 grade JLGs will be presented with the same challenge. The spreadsheet also asked what JLGs would like more information about. This information is being used for the Learning Specialist to plan training for this coming year.
Based on the new wave of videos being created, we are hoping to find creative ways to show webinars to a larger group of people.
Future Inclusion Efforts
We would like for Temple Beth Shalom to be fully inclusive. We are aware that our space is a current challenge. By creating a new building, we will then have to keep pushing ourselves with new, innovative ways of being inclusive in our programming because we will then have the space to do everything we are capable of doing.