Posts in category "Reflections & Perspectives"

Binge watching and being inspirational

By Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer
March 12, 2021

This week, as many of us are marking the one year anniversary of when life as we knew it changed drastically, I share with you one particular "binge-watch" that has gotten me through tough days this year. I hope you'll check out my video message to hear how “I don’t want to be just an inspiration, I want to be taken seriously,” reminded me why our work at Gateways continues to be so significant.

Category: Reflections & Perspectives

Tagged under: media portrayals, defeating ableism

 

Dismantling discrimination and cultivating kindness

By Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer
February 19, 2021

Last week, I shared two PJ Library children’s book lists as part of the February theme of inclusion that we are celebrating through Black History Month and JDAIM, Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month. This week, I want to reflect on some thoughts I had while reading Ibram X. Kendi’s How To Be An Antiracist, also a fitting read for this month (for adults!).

I’m fascinated by Kendi’s approach to dismantling racism, where it’s not enough to simply say that we are against racism. Rather, we need to name racism wherever we see it, to actively reject racism, and to build a society that is inherently antiracist. I think about how we could apply Kendi’s approach to dismantling stigma around and discrimination of those with disabilities and mental health challenges. Can we remember a moment where we saw and understood that an act of discrimination was happening? What did we do in that moment? Or afterwards? What can we do today?

The 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) were both steps in the right direction, but we still have much to do to break down systemic inequity, discrimination, and racism. As Judy Heumann, a lifelong civil rights advocate who helped pave the way for the passage of the ADA, said recently:

“Speaking about oppression and discrimination is hard to do, and many people have difficulty listening and looking at what role they play in allowing discrimination to continue. But ableism, racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination will only end when we, as a society, hold ourselves accountable and no longer make excuses that condone past and current practices. On a daily basis, I try to be aware and take action to make changes in my life that advance justice and equity for all people.”

We are reminded of that idea this Shabbat, the week before Purim, when we are called upon as Jews to remember what Amalek did to us on the way from Egypt, and to wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens. Some commentaries say that Amalek is no longer a physical nation, rather it represents the forces of evil and injustice in this world. The commandment to wipe out Amalek is a stark and clear reminder that it is not enough to recognize and remember acts of injustice—but we must actively eradicate these acts and prevent them from occurring again, today and in generations to come.

Let us model for our children how to actively advocate against all forms of discrimination—racism, ableism, antisemitism, and so on. And let us continue cultivating kindness and compassion, because as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said, “Ultimately, a great nation is a compassionate nation.”

Notes:

  • Continue the conversation about cultivating kindness by joining us for Parenting with Purpose, "The Power of Collaboration: Raising Human Beings" with speaker Ross Greene, next Thursday, February 25th. Register here!
  • Judy Heumann, whom I quoted above and who featured in the acclaimed film Crip Camp, will be interviewed by Temple Emanuel on February 28th, in a program co-sponsored by Gateways. Register for the session here.

Category: Reflections & Perspectives

Tagged under: inclusion, anti-discrimination, activism

 

Climbing the Hill

By Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer
January 22, 2021

On this historic week of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Inauguration, I reflect upon both the words that Dr. King spoke many years ago and those that inaugural poet Amanda Gorman spoke only two days ago in her poem, "The Hill We Climb."

In this video, I share how these words of perseverance and hope speak to my own experience as a person with a disability and to our imperative at Gateways to overcome inertia—to keep climbing the hill—when it comes to advocating for our community members and making inclusion the birthright of our children.

I hope you will share with me the quotes from Dr. King and "The Hill We Climb" that have inspired you this week.

Category: Reflections & Perspectives

Tagged under: reflections, advocacy, inclusion

 

Finding Strength in Times of Transition

By Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer
January 8, 2021

This week, the transition from the end of 2020 to the beginning of 2021 has coincided with a transition in the reading of the Torah, as we finish one book and begin the next. In this video message, I reflect on the words that we say when we enter these moments of transition in the Torah: chazak, chazak v'nitchazek—be strong, be strong, and we will be strengthened.

Category: Reflections & Perspectives

 

Sharing the story of our 89th B'nei Mitzvah

By Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer
December 23, 2020

This past year has changed the landscape of reality, of normalcy, for so many of us. Faced with unprecedented challenges and uncertainty, Gateways pivoted to continue serving our students and families through it all. As schools were closing their doors, we bolstered our online programs and provided therapy services remotely. As educators worked to meet new student needs, our therapists and coaches developed new strategies to help them. And as countless celebrations were postponed, the Gateways B’nei Mitzvah program held its 89th simchah—celebration—with our virtual community.

The story of our 89th bar Mitzvah is a truly special one. For so many of us, a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is a significant milestone that brings our family and community together. We come together to recognize this young adult coming of age in the tradition of our Jewish heritage. With such an important moment on the horizon, you can imagine the excitement—and subsequent disappointment—of many families who prepared for such an occasion for months or even years, only to be forced to drastically revise their plans due to the pandemic.

Now we come to Yair*, our 89th B’nei Mitzvah celebration. Yair worked painstakingly in our B’nei Mitzvah program to prepare for his precious milestone. His family has all said the same thing: between the pandemic and Yair’s personal struggles, they truly thought that their family would never be able to take part in a meaningful Bar Mitzvah experience.

How did we make this possible? Gateways educators and a professional tutor worked individually with Yair to learn the prayers and the parshah—the weekly Torah portion—for his Bar Mitzvah. Not only did they work with him on these recitations, but they worked together with Yair to compose and revise his d’var Torah—a personal story connected to the parshah. Our staff also collaborated with his synagogue to help plan the structure of the service and helped them prepare Yair for his celebration.

tactile book for prayer reminders

Through the relationships our educators had built with Yair, they tailored this virtual gathering with an entire community to embrace Yair as he entered the realm of Jewish adulthood. To shape the service to his interests and needs, he accompanied the rabbi during much of the morning service on the piano. Yair even wrote a new song for his Bar Mitzvah: a jazzy composition inspired by the words of Yotzeir Or (Creator of Light). Everyone was glued to their computer screens, dancing and rejoicing over the wide smile on Yair’s face as he achieved this new milestone in his life.

As we make our way through these tumultuous times, there is one constant that our families can count on. Gateways will always adapt and create ways to ensure no child is left out of our Jewish tradition. On behalf of the hundreds of families and children who are able to learn and grow in our life-changing programs, thank you for your ongoing generosity.

*name has been changed to preserve privacy

Category: Reflections & Perspectives

Tagged under: b'nei mitzvah