The Jewish Federation of Ottawa in partnership with Tamir, Jewish Family Services (JFS), and the Jewish Ottawa Inclusion Network (JOIN) will be taking a giant step forward on the journey to make our community more inclusive of people with disabilities.
Prior to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, these organizations partnered together to create the Committee for Inclusive Jewish Life, and together they received a grant to fund a part-time Community Inclusion Coordinator (CIC) for a two-year position.
This new position is an important step in a process that began in 2018 with the conference “Pushing the Boundaries.” Many Jewish communal organizations attended that conference, which helped to expose some of the barriers that people of varying abilities face in participating in Jewish life in Ottawa.
This summer, Jodi Green finally steps into the brand new role and is looking forward to supporting community organizations and institutions on their paths to inclusivity.
“The conference propelled the community forward in its inclusion efforts, and although the pandemic slowed the momentum, it is exciting to be moving forward with the appointment of Jodi Green,” said Sarah Beutel, VP of Community Building for Jewish Federation of Ottawa.
Green, who attended what was formerly the Baltimore Institute for Jewish Communal Service, has spent many years doing community inclusion in different forms — from working with interfaith couples to working with people with disabilities in her current role as Coordinator of Judaic Outreach and Inclusion at Tamir.
“Everybody wants to be inclusive, they want to make sure their institutions are welcoming to all people. Sometimes though, we might need a helping hand, or to do an internal audit,” said Green. “They might not even know the questions to ask. [The Community Inclusion Coordinator} will help offer support, encourage and provide resources.”
While the delay between receiving the grant, and to the role being fulfilled might seem disappointing, Green said the timing has actually provided a “valuable opportunity.”
“Suddenly when everyone couldn’t be included [during the pandemic’s stay-at-home orders], it made inclusion a default … closed captioning, live streams … there was a lot of organic inclusion work that happened,” she said. “We want to take that energy around communal inclusion and try to continue with it. We want to move back into the built environment, but continue with that inclusion.”
While the Green’s positionwill work from Tamir, the Committee for Jewish Life will continue to be involved in supporting this important communal effort. It is especially fitting that Tamir will also be expanding their services and offering more to support people with developmental disabilities and autism as part of their new strategic plan.
As part of their new role, the coordinator will work one-on-one with each organization to help them assess how inclusive they currently are and guide them as they make meaningful changes. Each organization’s process will be unique and significant to its members.
“The benchmarks for the role are not that all institutions will be ‘here’ by this date, but about tracking where each is on their own journey,” said Green, who has a Masters Degree in Social Work and a Masters in Jewish Studies. “And looking at how we can support them as they move along that road.”
“The conversations at Tamir have been very one-on-one, which will hopefully trickle up into whole institutional inclusion,” she said. “Within the community inclusion role, we’ll have the opportunity to speak with leadership, boards and higher level management.”