2013 Ruderman Prize in Disability Winner
Name: Bnai Amoona Synagogue
Location: St Louis, Missouri
Our goal is to be a welcoming and accessible spiritual and educational Jewish community for everyone, children and adults. With this as our vision, we have made changes in the past several years in the area of physical space, educational opportunities and spiritual services.
We make accommodations for all children in all of our educational programs with the goal that everyone participates as fully as possible. Visitors comment, with enthusiasm, concerning how we are able to integrate into our ECC, Camps, Youth Groups and Religious School a variety of special needs children. We work with each family individually to craft a plan that works best for that child. We strive to create custom B'nai Mitzvah experiences highlighting each child's gifts and abilities. We maintain a high standard of B'nai Mitzvah preparation that is individually tailored to each individual. The truly unique aspect of our education being so completely inclusive is that it improves the sensitivity and inclusiveness of all students, improves the quality of education we provide, and offers children with special needs a Jewish community.
"On a very personal note, receiving the Ruderman Foundation Prize is immensely gratifying and affirming. When I first accepted B'nai Amoona's invitation to serve as Senior Rabbi, I expressed a yearning that we aspire to be a "radically inclusive" Kehilla (holy community). That vision was has guided our congregation's efforts for the last 8 years and each year, we have searched for and found new and more meaningful ways to enfranchise those who, heretofore, had been marginalized. Our Shul's tag-line - Where Jews and Judaism Connect - has become a lived reality. This prize is a true Bracha (blessing) as it will help us continue our sacred mission. We are profoundly honored by the Ruderman Foundation's generosity, support and confidence in our Shul.
My vision of radical inclusivity was further honed via participation in a fellowship program run by CLAL called Rabbis Without Borders. RWB gave me a chance to think more deeply about what a truly open Synagogue environment might look like. It was the catalyst that helped me reimagine our institutional culture."
Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose
"In the hectic world of raising a young family in the 21st century, B'nai Amoona has always been a place of great shalom, peace, for us. With our children, a fourth generation has been welcomed into the congregation with sincere love, respect, and affection. We are so proud of the incredibly inclusive spirit our shul has exhibited as our family, along with the entire congregation, grows and learns together how each and every congregant, regardless of ability, is a part of the rich Diaspora of Jews in America. We are humbled by the outpouring of love, support, and understanding that B'nai Amoona has shown to our family. Learning and teaching one another that disability is a natural and vibrant part of our congregational experience has been the norm. From our klei kodesh to the summer camp, the entire shul has helped my family, and many families, grow in the most positive ways, both from within and as a congregation.
Having our children experience their B'nai Mitzvah is a common dream for most Jewish parents. When a family, such as ours, has a child with disability, those dreams might not appear as clear. Our congregational family at B'nai Amoona has made that dream come true for every family that desires it, including ours. Our daughter's bat-mitzvah was the most meaningful spiritual event of her life. She developed a true love for the peace and enrichment that our culture and the Torah brings. She loves going to shul, and we love B'nai Amoona for the inclusive spirit in fosters in us all."
Larry Opinsky, Parent