Category Archives: Jewish Faith

Essay Contest Blog Series-Blog #1

In preparing for this year’s Gifts of the Heart Gala, I was looking for an opportunity to highlight the voices of those who identify as having a disability. After all, our organization is about inclusion and the most important voice for disability inclusion efforts is (or should be) those who have disabilities themselves. Thus, in addition to our keynote speaker, Lisa Olson, who spoke eloquently about acceptance at the gala, the first Gifts of the Heart Essay Contest was born. 
I really had no idea whether or not anyone would submit an essay but we had a few things going for us. Number one, our good friend and sponsor, John Koehler of Koehler Publishing  offered up the $100 winning prize. Two, I had a vision that our winner and many of the participants would be recognized at our gala on March 11.  
In the end, we had six people enter the contest …

#SITD2016-A personal story about the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability

 
I arrived at the Grand Rapids airport at 10:30 pm on Sunday evening somewhat anxious and already quite exhausted. I still needed to connect with someone I didn’t know, rent a car and drive us to Holland, MI, a 40 minute ride to the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability at Hope College. A few days before the trip, my daughter needed unexpected minor surgery. This meant an overnight stay in the hospital amidst much worrying and prayers, not to mention a quick rearranging of schedules. Let’s just say, I was not in a good mental or physical state upon my late arrival in Michigan.
That all began to change, however, the moment I spotted my friend, Shelly Christensenat the airport. Shelly, who is from Minnesota and is a personal friend, FaceBook friend and National Adviser for the FIN Board of Directors, gave me a big hug, exclaimed “Karen!” and then …

Interview #8 Shelly Christensen

I initially “met” Shelly on the phone, when I called with some questions related to the inclusion of people with disabilities into Jewish communities.  She was incredibly generous with her time and, some 40 minutes later, I felt like I had a new friend in Minnesota.  Not long afterward, we got the chance to meet in person at an AAIDD conference and now we talk frequently since she is a Faith Inclusion Network National Board Adviser.  
Shelly has a lot of experience as a faith and disability advocate, traveling across the country to speak and be involved in many large Jewish and interfaith initiatives.  But what I appreciate personally about Shelly is her gift of encouragement.  I always come away from our conversations feeling wonderful!  Thank you for that beautiful gift and for all you continue to do to further the national faith and disability movement, Shelly.
Interview with: Shelly Christensen, …

How our Differently-Abled Daughter brought Blessing to our Congregation

Rabbi Michael Panitz
Temple Israel, Norfolk
As a rabbi, I have had many opportunities to observe the various culture of community that congregations form. Some are accepting of diversity, some are fearful of it and closed off.As the father of aneurologically-handicapped adult daughter, I have had a great emotional, as well as professional, investment in finding– and promoting– openness to (and indeed celebration of) human diversity in the congregations that I serve. My wife, Sheila, and I raised all of our children, including Emily, within the congregation, and the congregants embraced her. My part of the story, therefore, was to model and even to expect inclusion. That has been a success story, and that in itself would be worth stressing. But there is more: What neither my training nor my professional abilities have prepared me for, however, is the degree to which Emily herself entered the life of our congregation, and the …