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Innovation Initiative and Jewish Abilities Atlanta Team Up

By Atlanta Jewish Community, Federation Innovation, Jewish Abilities Atlanta

Jewish Atlanta’s growth and development depend on our ability to address the ever-changing needs of our community with creativity, foresight, and courage. Federation’s Jewish Innovation Initiative offers local changemakers the opportunity to expand the dynamic ecosystem of our city and brings exciting global ventures into Atlanta. One such program is Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM), a global movement of communities that create and disseminate affordable solutions that address the challenges faced by people with disabilities, older adults, and more. Teams of volunteer “makers” join those who have identified a need in the disability community to create concepts, working models, prototypes, or products that are specifically designed to solve identified challenges.

Last week, Jewish Atlanta was thrilled to host the TOM Fellowship Kickoff Event. 75 students from around the globe,  representing schools in the U.S., Israel, and other countries worked across a variety of disciplines, from engineering to occupational therapy to meet, share ideas, and become inspired by the ways they can work together to benefit the disabled community. It was an incredible example of the many ways Federation supports the Jewish landscape in Atlanta.

TOM, started in 2014 and has grown from one community in Israel to dozens of locations around the world. TOM’S partnership with Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta started through Hillels of Georgia. In 2019, Hillel was awarded a grant by the Innovation Initiative to introduce TOM to Georgia Tech. Since then, in collaboration with Hillel, the Innovation Fund has supported TOM’s growth. In January of 2019, TOM presented at Federation’s Propel Pitch Competition and was awarded as one of the events finalists.

Over the past 4 years, Federation’s Innovation and Jewish Abilities Atlanta (JAA) initiatives have been instrumental in providing resources to TOM such as grant funding, training, and help to build relationships with our local community. On Tuesday, JAA’s Training Coordinator Lindsey Flax led an accessibility training session for the TOM fellows. JAA promotes an inclusive community that celebrates the uniqueness and abilities of every person across the lifespan and lifts the voices and perspectives of people with disabilities. The training taught fellows about interacting with people with disabilities online and in person. Topics included inclusive language and social media accessibility.

Society disables people by designing everything to meet the needs of only people who are not disabled. For social media accessibility, Lindsey spoke about how to make social media content accessible for users with disabilities.

TOM’s Director of Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning, Mikhal Kotlyar, says “The Jewish values behind TOM are so special, and it’s valuable to spread the idea of tikkun olam (repairing the world). The chance to have all our leaders and fellows in one place is unparalleled and allows us to capture the imaginations of these students in a different way.” 

The Advocacy Efforts of Jewish Abilities Atlanta

By Jewish Abilities Atlanta

Jewish Abilities Atlanta advocates for Jewish people with disabilities and works to ensure that Jewish spaces are accessible to all people. The JAA community is full of bright, talented individuals who advocate for themselves and their peers and work to make Jewish Atlanta inclusive for individuals like Susan Berch:

Susan Berch has worked at Jewish Family & Career Services for the last 29 years, but not everyone knows her passion for advocacy. One form of self-advocacy that Susan is involved in is Supported Decision-Making (SDM). It involves getting a person support with making a decision. This process can vary from person to person, but the foundation of SDM is creating a plan that shows who will support the individual, and how. The plan must respect the person’s autonomy by making sure they make their own decisions and that their decision-making rights are not removed or diluted. Susan used SDM when she recently planned a vacation to Hawaii with her friends, and when she bought her condominium 20 years ago, as well as other day-to-day decisions.

For most people, having choice and control over their daily lives is deeply important. But many people with disabilities don’t have access to making everyday choices and decisions. This is why JAA works to raise awareness of SDM. JAA hosted a SDM webinar where Susan presented with other colleagues on the importance of SDM and how it is a human right. JAA continues to provide education and support so people with disabilities can have the opportunity that Susan has: to live the life of their choosing.

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