Areas of Inclusion: Adults in Communal Life, Advocacy & Community Partnerships, Architectural & Physical Accommodations and Transportation, Autism, B’nai Mitzvah, Blindness, Deafness, Early Childhood Education, General Inclusion, Mental Health, Religious School, Worship, and Youth Group, High School, and College Programming
About the Congregation
5645 Dupree Drive
Atlanta, GA 30327
Rabbi Brad Levenberg, Associate Rabbi
404.252.3073 ext. 381
Does this congregation have an inclusion committee?
Developing Our Program
The Hineini committee was created by the Interfaith Disabilities Network in an effort to ensure that congregational facilities and programming (as well as service delivery) were accessible. Now 20 years later, our Hineini committee continues the work with great success.
Number of people involved in the effort: 12
Involving People with Disabilities
Our Hineini committee includes those living with disabilities whose involvement in proposing, spearheading and celebrating our initiatives is integral to our success.
Funding This Effort
We have a fund established to cover initiatives as well as a very supportive budgetary process.
Helpful Agencies & Organizations
Temple Sinai participates actively in yearly Jewish Disability Month activities as well as actively as a partner to the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s Disability Task Force. Temple Sinai supported and partnered with a community program, The Interfaith Disabilities Taskforce, which, sadly, is no longer in operation.
Beginning last year, Temple Sinai launched a partnership with the MJCCA and the Blonder Department of Special Needs that transformed our programming calendar and raised awareness of the support that our community offers for those with, and for family members of, individuals living with developmental special needs.
Blonder Department clients participated in a hands-on social action project, alongside and mentored by nondisabled Sinai members.
Temple Sinai purchased a block of tickets to support an evening of the annual performance sponsored by the Blonder Department where a musical show is performed starring only clients of the program. Sinai advertised the event, sold tickets, and hosted a dinner prior to the performance. Two of Sinai’s rabbis, a representative from The Blonder Department and Sinai members engaged in conversation around the importance of supporting programs that serve those living with special needs.
List of Helpful Agencies & Organizations
Spreading Awareness About Our Work
We have promoted our initiatives to the demographic through JFCS and Federation.
Links About Spreading Awareness
Process & Sharing
History, Materials & Processes that Guided Our Approach
The focal point for Sinai’s accessibility and inclusion work is the inclusivity and accessibility committee, named “Hineini” which means here I am. The foundation for the success of the Hineini Committee is that members serving on the committee include: people with disabilities; people with family members with disabilities; experts on disability issues; and staff and clergy with a passion for innovation and inclusion. The Hineini Committee began over a decade ago in an effort to ensure that capital improvements to the facility were completed in the most inclusive manner possible. The committee’s work was informed by a young man in a wheelchair, Ross Cooper, Ross’ mother, Marilyn Arkin, Jan Epstein who has a grandson with several disabilities and Sari Earl whose father was paralyzed and in a wheelchair for twenty years. The group crafted a “wish list” for the construction and expansion occurring at Temple Sinai at that time and lobbied for major adjustments in the construction to address accessibility issues. Most concerns and adjustments were successfully implemented at that time.
Thereafter, representatives of the Hineini committee joined the Interfaith Disabilities Network, a community program, and worked with churches, synagogues and mosques to advance and share best practices of inclusivity efforts. This collective networking led the Hineini Committee to focus on creating a culture of inclusion for all who wish to be part of Sinai through innovative programming and creative physical plant efforts that provide accessibility beyond ADA or code.
Over ten years later, the Hineini Committee has grown to about fifteen members serving on this standing committee, including a combination of lay leaders and staff. Stuart Levenson has been a wonderful contributor to the committee as he brings his experiences of becoming sight-impaired and his welcome sense of humor. Additionally, education specialists joined the Hineini committee, as well as the coordinating lay leader in charge of an autism support group at Sinai.
A new initiative of the Hineini Committee is to provide welcoming access to Sinai through two “Accessibility Concierges” and to communicate with the membership about how to take advantage of all that Sinai has to offer. This communications effort includes Sinai’s commitment to inclusion and all that is available to members and guests through articles and information on Sinai’s website, in its printed newsletter, the D’Var Sinai, and in Sabbath and special email blasts to members.
Finally, after a Board of Trustees Inclusivity Awareness Training, the board unanimously voted to create The Hineini Accessibility and Inclusivity Fund to support inclusion efforts. This fund is being used for new initiatives, including a special parking assistance pilot program being implemented this summer for anyone with mobility issues in accessing our buildings.
Our full report detailing our programming, partnerships, staff training, and opportunities, is available below.
History, Materials & Process Documents
Evidence of Successful Inclusion Efforts
We have heard from people with disabilities that they appreciate the lengths that Sinai has gone to respond to their needs. In addition, our Disabilities Team (concierge, Assistant Executive Director, Rabbis) have all heard from about a dozen congregants that they have been moved.
Evidence of Changing Attitudes
It is difficult to provide an answer to the question being asked. But we have delighted in hearing from those affected by our inclusion efforts, that they feel so welcome, so included, at Sinai, and that they have finally found a congregational home responsive to their needs.
How We're Using and Sharing the Disabilities Inclusion Learning Center
We will use the Disabilities Inclusion Learning Center resources in our Jewish Disability Awareness Month commemorations, including staff and board training, as well as with our 9th grade class.
Future Inclusion Efforts
Where to begin! The Interfaith Disability Network previously provided a seminar with interfaith institutions on inclusion and accessibility. At Sinai, we have a vision for sharing the above-described inclusivity and accessibility efforts and exchanging best practices with other faith institutions by hosting a forum for exchange. We would welcome the opportunity to bring together the vibrant Atlanta faith community and create dialogue around these important inclusivity and accessibility issues.
We are looking to further enhance our physical plant and to further utilize and better promote our concierge.