Special needs catalogue lauded
I recently returned from the Union of Reform Judaism’s Biennial in San Diego where 35 other members of Temple Sinai and I prayed, learned and found inspiration from the creativity, energy and dynamism of our movement.
The Biennial gave me one more reason to appreciate our denomination’s commitment to enhance and enrich the lives of every member of Klal Yisrael (the Jewish people) in a meaningful Jewish way.
One of the major themes of the week was the importance of inclusion for all people who want to participate in Jewish life. There were several lectures and workshops focusing on ways that we can bring attention to, develop and implement best practices in including those with disabilities within Temple Sinai’s “Family of Families” that will help us further our mission of “Opening Doors to Judaism” even wider.
The recently issued “Community Directory for Individuals with Special Needs and Disabilities in Pittsburgh’s Jewish Community” is a welcome catalogue of our community’s efforts to be as inclusive as our tradition demands. Temple Sinai takes its mission of “Opening Doors to Judaism” for all who want to enter very seriously.
While it is important to note that there are several serious errors in the report regarding Temple Sinai’s accommodation of individuals with special needs and disabilities, we were nonetheless impelled to examine our facility and program in response to the report and identify areas of improvement.
In the weeks following publication, Temple Sinai appointed a point person for inclusion (Barbara Milch) and installed hearing loop technology in the Leebov Sanctuary and Falk Auditorium. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, those with a T-switch on their hearing aid or cochlear implant only need to flip a switch on their device in order to hear and enjoy our worship services, educational, musical and other offerings.
Those whose hearing aids’ don’t have a telecoil can use one of our headsets to achieve the same effect.
Thank you to the Inclusion Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh for pushing this issue to the top of the communal agenda and helping us be a more warm and welcoming congregation.
Deborah R. Fidel
(The author is executive director of Temple Sinai.)
Imam reaches out
I have dedicated my life for the service of God and mankind and have recently been appointed as the imam (missionary) of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Pittsburgh Chapter. We are located at 747 South Ave, Wilkinsburg.
Religion, if followed and practiced correctly, can bring peace and harmony to society. It can have a positive impact on the minds of the people. Islam today enjoys neither. Unfortunately, extremists misuse Islam and as a result, people misunderstand Islam.
As an imam, it is my responsibility to present the true teaching of Islam and to remove misconceptions, which are evident today. My goal is to build the bridges of understanding and compassion between my faith and Pittsburgh community leaders and to serve the people of Pittsburgh in every possible way. This is what Prophet Muhammad taught us. So let me know how I can be a Good Samaritan, and I am ready to serve.
(The author is imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Pittsburgh Chapter.)
I wanted to share some unusual success stories from the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s weeklong FundFest. They don’t have to do with the amount of money raised (although that’s a huge success too), but they are the stories behind the pledge cards.
Throughout the week, I received pledge cards marked with notes indicating that a particular person needed help, was unemployed, was confined to a wheelchair, etc. I passed this information along to AgeWell Pittsburgh, the partnership between Jewish Family & Children’s Service, the Jewish Association on Aging, and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh that provides services for our seniors, and other beneficiary agencies who are well suited to help.
Before the FundFest week was over, AgeWell had reached out to several people needing help and immediately connected them to the appropriate services.
I personally spoke to a couple in dire straits. The man was badly hurt in a car accident and cannot go to work, so the couple does not have any income at the moment. Within an hour, with only one phone call, a case manager at JF&CS
connected them to the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry and to the Jewish Assistance Fund. The couple will now have the support needed during this difficult time, until the husband goes back to work in April.
Thanks to FundFest, we not only raise funds to make an impact in the community, but we also connect personally with those in need and offer help. It’s truly a win-win for our community.
(The author is the manager of human services planning and allocations for
the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.)
Pennies and pop tabs
The Holocaust Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh was featured in last week’s Chronicle sharing the story of Roger Smith, a Holocaust educator and donor who aims to collect 6 million pennies to fund Holocaust education (“Warhol, Holocaust Center work together on Yom Hashoah projects,” Jan. 30). The Holocaust Center is also a partner with Community Day School in the educational outreach around our Gary and Nancy Tuckfelt Keeping Tabs Holocaust Sculpture.
We are gratified that, at the press conference, both Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and City Councilman Corey O’Connor reinforced Pittsburgh’s significant commitment to Holocaust education and were inspired to once again highlight Community Day School’s Gary and Nancy Tuckfelt Keeping Tabs Sculpture. We know that visitors to the temporary exhibit of penny boxes at the Andy Warhol Museum will also be invited to visit our campus to learn more, and will experience the emotional impact of seeing 6 million pop tabs collected by children and adults to remember those that were lost, and to reinforce the lessons that will keep us vigilant against such horrors.
We applaud any effort to educate the world about this dark period in history when humanity fell short. We eagerly lend support to any and all individuals and organizations that share in our efforts to remember the victims and educate humanity.
Avi Baran Munro
(The author is head of school at Community Day School.)