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Created b’tzelem Elohim—in the image of God

February 2016

In Genesis1:27 we read: “And God created man in his image, in the image of God he created him, male and female.” This famous passage underscores the understanding that all of us are made b’tzelem Elohim: in God’s image. An echo of our adolescent selves, when all we wanted was to fit in, to be the same as our peers, often creates a conflict in our thinking when we meet people who look different from us and think in different ways. It is difficult when we are in the midst of an emotional political debate, when we encounter people in dress reflecting an alien culture, or when we see someone with a disability or disfigurement to we remember this dictum, that all human beings are created b’tzelem Elohim. I would like to extend this basic Jewish concept to encompass not only our having been made in God’s image but to refer to the spark of godliness in all, a gift that makes each of us unique and who we are. It is a challenge to keep this concept in our minds when we are confronted with fear of “the other,” when we have been exposed to those whose harsh judgments spring from prejudice and ignorance. During the month of February our Greater Metro West com-munity provides us with a yearly check to avoid such tendencies by encouraging us to participate in Shabbat Shalem, marking Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month. The mission of this program is to urge synagogues and Jewish organizations to take action to raise awareness and support meaningful efforts to include people with disabilities and their families in every aspect of Jewish life. As a com-munity, we have made great strides to welcome all our members in Jewish living and learning. Since2009, over 40 congregations across Greater Metro West have made the commitment to pro-vide opportunities for individuals with special needs and their families to participate fully in Jewish life  (through Greater Metro West ABLE).We are thrilled to welcome rabbinical student Ruti Reganon Saturday, Feb. 6, to inspire us on this topic. A fourth-year rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Ruti is a board member and founder of Anachnu, an organization led by Jews with disabilities promoting disability-informed Tora hand inclusive community. She is also a rabbinic intern at Matan and moderates the weekly #parsha chat on Twitter. Ruti previously studied at Drisha and the Conservative Yeshiva. Her interests include liturgy, light bulb jokes, and respectful Torah. Ruti will continue to educate the education department on Sunday, Feb. 7, by leading a workshop for the staff entitled “When school is a narrow bridge: Building trust with children with disabilities who come to us with fear. ”Thank you to Anita Finkel and the Doris R. Werk Fund for providing us with the information and the support to raise our awareness of this important mission. Our goal of inclusion for all members of our Jewish community is a priority for our CAI family.******I am speechless and overwhelmed by the expressions of love that I received at the celebration of my 25 years at CAI. A special thank you to Gayle Wieseneck and Alison Rosenthal for chairing the amazing day, Wendy Weinstein for morning yoga, and to everyone for making this such a memorable event. Your generosity of spirit and love sustain me. Thank you!

April 19,2024 /  11 Nisan 5784