February has been designated as Jewish Disability Awareness Month. As we revisit our journey as a people from bondage to freedom to the Promised Land, we focus our energies on those infused with God’s spirit within or community who often feel enslaved by their disability.
It is unfortunate that we, at times, act as their slavemasters, when we see them as disabled first and persons second. In that case, a darkness descends and we do not see them in our midst. How does darkness become a plague? By blocking the light, turning off our awareness, shutting down relationships, and preventing us from becoming agents of change. In the Torah, we interpret the meaning of darkness for our ancestors. This month we seek to lift the veil of darkness which often engulfs persons with disabilities.
Like the Israelites may we see light in our dwellings where others see only darkness. May we open our hearts to the light which emanates from individuals who are challenged in so many ways. But we need to do more than just illuminate the paths that these individuals travel upon. We should not be content just to widen doorways, build ramps and have large print prayerbooks. They are "persons first" who are like us in more ways than we care to admit. We should not define them by their disability. They need to be on our Boards and be seen as potential leaders. Let not their physical, intellectual, mental or invisible disability cause us to be enveloped in the darkness of insensitivity. Can the veil of darkness be lifted so that we can see them as equals?
The Egyptians failed to see their responsibilities towards others. They were dwelling in darkness. In contrast to the ancient Israelites who we are told had "light in their dwellings" recognized, in those moments, the needs and concerns of each other. When we lose our mutual concern, we too are afflicted with darkness in the eyes.
But more than that, I hope and pray that we be able to bring light to the dwelling of those with disabilities who can often be invisible to us. As we are taught, ‘whoever does not see their friends with a "good eye" cannot rise up from the darkness.’ Join us on Friday, February 22 for our Annual Disability Awareness Shabbat that our eyes be filled with light for these special friends who dwell among us.
Jewish Disability Awareness Shabbat
Harry Stern, former Executive Director of the Marcus Jewish Community Center and currently the CEO of enAble Georgia, will be our guest speaker at Shabbat services Friday, February 22. We hope you’ll join us! See below to read more about Harry Stern and his appointment to CEO of enAble Georgia.
Rabbi Harvey J. Winokur
Press Release From enAble of Georgia
October 16, 2012
enAble of Georgia, a non-profit organization serving individsuals with special needs and their families, has named Harry Stern as its chief executive officer.
Stern will have responsibility for leading the organization as it expands its range of services to a wider audience of potential clients, including adults with physical disabilities, seniors, youths with developmental and physical disabilities and others with special needs, as well as their families. His accountabilities will include direct operational responsibility for the organization’s development initiatives.
Stern brings nearly 30 years of experience in nonprofit leadership and development roles to the position. Most recently he has served as Director of Global Development for the WellStar College of Health and Human Services at Kennesaw State University (KSU), where he collaborated in the development of the university’s Global Center for Social Change. The Center worked with countries in North Africa and the Middle East in the area of disability programs.
He was one of the leaders in launching KSU’s Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth, which offers a fully inclusive, two-year college experience to students with intellectual disabilities. The Academy is the only program of its kind in Georgia.
Earlier he was Executive Director of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta for 15 years. During his tenure, Stern introduced a broad offering of programs designed to enrich the lives of individuals with special needs, such as Habima Theatre, Georgia’s first theatrical company to feature actors with developmental disabilities in plays and musicals produced by professionals.
Stern also has held leadership positions with major nonprofits in Washington, D.C., San Diego and New York City and has worked as a consultant to organizations and government agencies worldwide regarding inclusive approaches for persons with disabilities. He holds both master’s and doctoral degrees in Social Welfare from Columbia University in New York.
“We are delighted to have an individual of Harry’s caliber in the top leadership role for enAble,“ said Vicki Gordon, Chair of enAble’s Board of Directors. “His experience and strategic vision will be instrumental in guiding our organization as we broaden its scope in providing top-quality, comprehensive support to individuals in the Atlanta community who need help living a fulfilled lifestyle.”
About enAble of Georgia
Roswell-based enAble of Georgia, Inc., is a nonprofit organization providing residential, in-home and day-service programs for adults and adolescents with special needs and their families. enAble is committed that individuals with both intellectual and physical disabilities live as independently as possible and have the opportunity to be a part of and contribute to their communities. Founded in 1979, enAble is a 501(c)(3) organization and is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). For more information, please visit www.enablega.org.