/BY ANNA WISHNEFF/ //SPECIAL FOR THE AJT//

In 2009, a group of Jewish special educators declared February to be National Jewish Disability Awareness Month. The group aimed to raise awareness of the need to foster the inclusion of people with disabilities and their families in Jewish communal organizations and set- tings, such as schools, synagogues, and camps.

Jewish communities around the country are participating by creating programs and events to recognize this movement.

“As Jews, we should be very aware of the importance of individual freedoms. This is a fundamental civil rights issue,” said Eve Bogan, Director of Developmental Disabilities Services – Tools for Independence.

If families of young children are not comfortable in Jewish settings, they are likely to back away from the community. Therefore, inclusion of individuals with special needs is also a Jewish continuity issue.

Here in Atlanta, our community has embraced National Jewish Disability Awareness Month through an array of programs and events topped off with JF&CS’s 21st Annual Larry Bregman, M.D., Educational Conference on Feb. 22 & 23.

This conference offers adults with developmental disabilities, their families and their caregivers the opportunity to learn about topics that might not be addressed in other venues. It also allows participants to socialize with others who share their interests and needs in a unique conference atmosphere.

Classes and discussions take place to emphasize the importance of being a self-advocate and living a healthy lifestyle. Bregman is open to the com- munity, and volunteers are needed.

For more information on Bregman, or volunteer opportunities, visit www. Bregman.org.