Congregation Beth Israel in Scotch Plains is opening a new quiet room, called the Sababa Spot, as part of its celebration of Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month (it’s known as JDAIM for short). JDAIM is a unified initiative to raise disability awareness and to foster inclusion in Jewish communities worldwide.
Congregation Beth Israel has been recognized as a Greater MetroWest ABLE-awarded congregation by the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest for its commitment to inclusion and accommodation for all its members and guests.
The creation of a quiet room within the synagogue is one of several initiatives that CBI is embarking on this month. The shul is converting an empty office into a quiet space for anyone who needs it — whether that is a student who needs to calm down before returning to class, or a mother who needs a private place to nurse. The Sababa Spot has been decorated in soothing colors, with gentle light and soft materials, so that people with sensitivities to certain textures and stimuli aren’t affected.
“Our intention is to provide a safe space for anyone who might feel overwhelmed and needs a calming environment,” Marcia Wiener, co-chair of the Inclusion Committee and a CBI executive board member, said. “We identified this need for our school and synagogue a while ago, but we never had the opportunity to do something until now. With some rejiggering, we realized that we could transform a small, underutilized space into the quiet room we had always wanted.”
Congregation Beth Israel also is celebrating JDAIM by partnering with the local libraries in Scotch Plains, Fanwood, and Westfield to dedicate a special shelf to the topic of disabilities during February.
In addition, Congregation Beth Israel’s religious school is teaching grade-appropriate lessons about disabilities to its students in kindergarten through seventh grade.
“CBI and our religious school are always working toward being a welcoming community, where all feel they have the ability to learn and participate,” Aviva Tilles, the shul’s director of congregational learning, said. “JDAIM gives us the opportunity to take time out of our busy curriculum to spend time specifically dedicated to learning about the importance of inclusiveness in our school, our community, and the world. The Jewish tradition of inclusiveness dates back thousands of years.”
Congregation Beth Israel will culminate its observance of JDAIM by participating in a community Shabbat service on Friday, February 25, at 6 p.m. Seven synagogues in Union County, plus one in Newark, will join together virtually to celebrate JDAIM as one community and to give thanks for the gifts that all its members contribute. The service will be co-led by clergy representing all the participating congregations, including Congregation Beth Israel and Temple Sholom, both in Scotch Plains; Temple Emanu-El in Westfield; Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael in Springfield; Temple Beth Or Beth Torah in Clark; Temple Sha’arey Shalom in Millburn; Temple Beth-El Mekor Chayim in Cranford; and Ahavas Sholom in Newark.
Registration and information about the service in honor of JDAIM is available at jccnj.org/events.