500 Communities to Promote Inclusion in Mental Health and Disability at ShabbaTTogether

by Chabad.org Staff – chabad.org

As the Shabbat queen is ushered in around the world this week, more than 500 communities will be throwing open their doors as wide as possible.

Honoring February’s designation as “Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month,” they will be participating in ShabbaTTogether, an annual weekend focused on championing inclusion. This year, a focus will be placed on mental health and supporting and welcoming those who live with mental illness.

In Miami, the program will begin on Thursday at the Friendship Bakery, a program helping young adults living with disabilities develop responsibility, as well as empowering them to make and sell their own baked goods with the help of professionals and volunteers.

Some of their creations will be consumed on Friday night at the Miami Beach Jewish Community Center (MBJCC), when more than 200 people are expected to come together and celebrate “ShabbaTTogether” with a meaningful prayer service, delicious meal and personal testimonials from community members. The event will bring together those who make up the special-needs community, concentrating on creating a mindset of inclusivity and practical ways to help people living with disabilities and their families feel welcome and supported, according to organizers.

Keeping with the weekend’s theme, the annual “Bike 4 Friendship” will kick off on Sunday, Feb. 9. Riding with fellow “Bike Miami” cyclists and conquering mile after mile of South Florida ocean views over the two-day event, participants will be raising funds and awareness for children and young adults with disabilities.

“Our community, just like every community, includes people with disabilities and mental health conditions,” said Rabbi Mendy Dechter, co-director at Friendship Circle in Miami. “We have to strive together to create an environment where every single person feels comfortable, where they feel like they truly belong, and we see this Shabbat as the perfect opportunity to further that goal.”

Last year’s ShabbaTTogether program brought the themes of inclusion and awareness at 260 Chabad centers around the world. This year, the program has almost doubled in scope. “ShabbaTTogether” is a project of the Ruderman Chabad Inclusion Initiative, an organization that empowers Jewish communities to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for people with disabilities and mental health conditions.

The organization draws inspiration from the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—the most influential rabbi in modern history, who taught that every individual who fulfills his or her obligations to the extent of their G‑d-given capacities shares in the totality of the effort and accomplishment of the entire Jewish people.

Marking 25 years since the passing of the Rebbe, the breakthrough book Inclusion and the Power of the Individual by Rabbi Ari Sollish—published by Kehot Publication Society and released earlier this year—shares the Rebbe’s pioneering teachings of the infinite potential of each person and how individuals have a role in the world that only they can fill.

“We feel honored and humbled to be of service to these incredible families,” said Marcy Lederman of Friendship Circle. “The feeling of belonging and acceptance defies boundaries and stereotypes; such inclusion is critical for every human being in order to thrive. Seeing the effects of friendship firsthand is transformative and motivates us to do this important work.”

To find out more about a ShabbaTTogetherprogram near you, visit their web site, www.shabattogether.com.

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