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Ta Shema: January 29, 2022

An Open Door Project Update

Inclusion has become an important buzzword in our society. Often “inclusion” is something people think about as an after-thought—meaning after it is all said and done, in case we made ourselves inaccessible to a population, let us try to make an adjustment. However, inclusion is not something that should be an afterthought. It should be built into the framework of our organization and a part of everything we do. Most importantly, it should be the forethought, the welcoming red carpet we roll out in advance of people needing or asking for it.

Inclusion means creating opportunities for all to be full members of society. However, just creating opportunities is not in itself the goal. Rather it is an important step on the long journey to belonging. It’s about wholeheartedly caring for each member of our kehillah kedosha, holy community, and listening to each person’s individual needs.

Are those in the margins: invited, present, welcomed, known, accepted, supported, cared for, befriended, needed, and loved?

That is exactly what our Open Door Project, headed by Rena Goldwasser, is setting out to do. 

Below Rena shares an update on our Open Door Project as we head into Jewish Disabilities Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month. Together we strive to make Bnai Israel a place where everyone not only feels included but has a true sense of belonging.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Chaya Bender


Open Door Project Article #1  

“Hospitality is temporary.  Inclusion is permanent.”
--Rabbi Steve Wernick, USCJ CEO

Hello everyone!  My name is Rena Goldwasser and I am writing to share news about our Open Door Project (ODP) that I’m working on with Rabbi Bender and other BIC members (Terry Jensen, Mike Smith, Michelle Bannon, and Diane Gerberg).

The ODP was created by the Bnai Israel Congregation (BIC) Board of Directors to serve as a resource for all of our BIC families AND those who are thinking of joining us–families with members who are of a different faith, Jewish LGBTQ+ folks, and Jews of all colors and disabilities, and all ages.  In other words, to ensure that BIC continues to be a vital 21st-century synagogue that serves 21st-century families and individuals in the Conservative tradition.  We are committed to enhancing and expanding the welcoming culture that has been a hallmark of this congregation and making sure that anyone who is looking for a Conservative Jewish home knows about BIC. 

At this time, I’m writing to highlight the idea of inclusion for all, including those with disabilities.   February is Jewish Disabilities Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month  (JDAIM) 2022 which is in its 13th year of worldwide celebration.  The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) is promoting this event and has developed a website where you can find more information about this and resources that are available, including registration for Jewish Disability and Advocacy Day Conference (on Zoom) planned for February 23d and 24th.  Another site to look at will take you to a podcast collection of recordings called Everyone’s Welcome: A Fresh Conversation on Disability which explores the many areas of inclusiveness that can ensure that people with disabilities and their families can fully and comfortably participate in congregational life.  

Look for more newsletter articles and social media posts highlighting the various ways we live our diversity and inclusion at BIC right now and plans for the future. Feedback is welcomed and encouraged. We are a forum for discussing and responding to the ritual, educational and social needs of our community to make it a “spiritual home” for all. Please feel free to contact me or Rabbi Bender with any questions, suggestions, or feedback. 

Rena Goldwasser
ODP Chair

Rabbi Chaya Bender


Sun, March 3 2024 23 Adar I 5784