by Tamar Davis, CEO
“Diversity is creativity.”
This is the mantra of Captain Udi Heller, an autism inclusion advocate who addressed us this week in a Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month program.
I had the privilege of partnering with our colleagues at Yachad and the Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project to hear from Captain Heller, the highest-ranking autistic soldier in the IDF and the founder of Titkadmu (Move Forward), a one-of-a-kind program for autistic soldiers. Udi’s passion was palpable as he spoke about his accomplishments creating systemic change in the IDF and shifting mindsets around inclusion. He emphasized that diversity is creativity – that building from and acknowledging the unique strengths of every person is what leads to a better, stronger society.
Udi is an remarkable advocate for himself and hundreds of others who want the opportunity to claim their rightful place in society. “I learned not to give up… and not to let others give up on me,” said Udi.
I’m reminded every year around this time that the Purim story is also story of advocacy. Queen Esther risks her life to advocate for the Jewish people’s right to live, and she successfully convinces King Ahasuerus to proclaim the Jews’ right to assemble and protect themselves. The power of advocacy, of not giving up on ourselves or one another, is enormous — and it’s a power that we all have within us.
Personally, I’m looking forward to celebrating Purim with our students and teen madrichim at the Gateways Jewish Education Program this Sunday along with my own child who is a student in the program. (For those of you who’ll be there, I’ll be the one dressed as a pilot from Top Gun: Maverick!)
May we all feel the unbridled joy of this holiday, whether celebrating with family, community, or simply enjoying some sweet hamantaschen at home. Shabbat shalom and chag Purim sameach.
Click Below to Watch a 30-Second Clip
You can watch Udi’s full presentation on our YouTube channel here!.