All too often, individuals with disabilities or those for whom mental wellness is a struggle feel isolated and imagine that no one in the world could possibly understand the challenges they face on a daily basis. But the narrative of their lives could be tremendously altered if only they knew that there is a supportive community all around them, ready to offer their support and a listening ear.
The event is a potential game changer and features three prominent individuals who are well known within the Jewish inclusion community – internationally acclaimed scholar and lecturer Rabbi Shais Taub, global disability advocate and White House advisor Judy Heumann and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein. Both Heumann, a polio survivor and wheelchair user since 1949, who has been described by the Washington Post as “the mother of disability rights,” and Bernstein, who was born blind and is a tireless advocate for disability rights as well as an 18-time marathoner, will be sharing their inspirational personal stories.
By talking about their own experiences, One Thing I Wish You Knew’s speakers will be opening up a larger conversation on disability and mental wellbeing, while driving home the point that every person, no matter who they are, has a unique perspective they can share with others. The event will have benefits on both the communal and individual levels, promoting inclusivity and understanding, shattering stigmas and creating a network of support within the Jewish community, all of which begins with the simple act of listening, the first step towards inclusion.
The Chabad Inclusion Network is a project of Friendship Circle International and Machne Israel. Its director, Dr. Sarah Kranz-Ciment, PT, DPT, MA, explained that providing people with a sense of community and empowering them by showing them that they aren’t alone in their personal journeys are key elements of One Thing I Wish You Knew.
“Everyone has a story,” said Kranz-Ciment. “Everyone has something they wish you knew. Often, we think we get it, that we truly empathize with our friends and family, but we don’t always know what they’re actually going through or how to be a great listener.”
“We’re really giving folks an opportunity to listen,” added Mendel Groner, director of Friendship Circle International. “It all begins from there.”
One Thing I Wish You Knew will be part of ShabbaTTogether, an annual weekend of inclusivity that spans six continents, taking place on February 18th and 19th. Now in its fourth year, ShabbaTTogether coincides with JDAIM – Jewish Disability and Inclusion Month held annually in February.