The High Holidays provide an opportunity for Congregation B’nai Torah members and guests to reflect on the Conservative Sandy Springs synagogue’s efforts to enact its commitment to inclusion.
That work — apparent in renovations that have, for example, widened the sanctuary aisles, built ramps behind the ark and the central bimah, lowered the table for reading the Torah, installed a loop system for the hearing-impaired in the sanctuary and the beit midrash, and added signs with Braille as well as English and Hebrew — has been enhanced through B’nai Torah’s membership in the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s Ruderman Inclusion Action Community.
B’nai Torah is one of 16 congregations selected for the action community early this year and the only one south of Washington, D.C., and east of Texas. The congregation applied to share the benefits of a grant United Synagogue received from the Ruderman Family Foundation in August 2014.
“Inclusion of people of all different abilities is already an intrinsic value held by generations of younger Jews,” foundation President Jay Ruderman said when the grant was announced. “Working toward the goal of building an inclusive community, our foundation is proud to partner with United Synagogue to help encourage the establishment of inclusive synagogues across North America.”
Rabbi Eytan Kenter, who has driven B’nai Torah’s inclusiveness efforts, said the 16 congregations are learning from and encouraging one another to strive to do more to make all people feel welcome. Being part of the national group has provided a certain level of accountability, he said.
“We want to be a place where we celebrate those things that make us different,” Rabbi Kenter said.
The grant runs through November. The members of the action community will discuss the grant during the United Synagogue biennial outside Chicago in mid-November.
Rabbi Kenter said the hope is that Ruderman will renew the grant, “but we’ll continue anyway.”