You may have noticed during the last two years the Accessibility Initiative held a service called Shabbat Itanu which focused on the themes of accessibility and inclusion.
The first year we had David Lepofsky, a lawyer who spoke about his lifetime of work dedicated to enshrining accessibility in the law. He’s the one behind the announcements of every stop on the subway and streetcars. The second year, Ellen Schwartz, a teacher and mother of a son with a neurodegenerative disease talked about the meaning of inclusion and how much we have to gain and learn when everyone in our community has a chance to participate.
So what is this Shabbat Itanu?
Shabbat Itanu started as an initiative by the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto to encourage synagogues to hold an inclusion-themed Shabbat service once a year to highlight the need for greater inclusion and accessibility in the Jewish Community. That initiative has grown to become ITANU Toronto, a full-time inclusion initiative dedicated to helping the Jewish community as a whole become more welcoming and inclusive to those of all abilities.
ITANU Toronto, which recently launched a website and hired a dedicated coordinator who works out of the JCC, is meant to be a resource for synagogues, Jewish groups, schools, community centres, etc, to find information on how to make their spaces more accessible or to connect to events, programs, and resources related to inclusion.
In February, ITANU Toronto is helping to put on Jewish Disability Awareness Month, a full month of over 20 diverse events around the city dedicated to raising awareness about disability. Check it out – there’s something for everyone!