The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) will celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities with a week of educational, training, and volunteer activities in eight countries worldwide. Leveraging the expertise of Israel Unlimited – JDC’s partnership with the Ruderman Family Foundation and Israeli Government to advance inclusivity and independent living for Israelis with disabilities – Jewish community leaders and professionals, JDC staff experts, and hundreds of people with and without disabilities with gather to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in their local communities and wider society. Nearly 1 billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, have a disability.

“We have a long-held vision of a global Jewish community powered by the passion and talents of all its members, including people with disabilities. As we work every day to realize that goal around the world, we’re proud to pioneer activities that build inclusive societies and foster welcoming Jewish communities,” said JDC CEO David Schizer. “By drawing on the successes of Israel Unlimited and taking those models global, we are proud to join with the Ruderman Family Foundation in realizing a Jewish future strengthened by the invaluable contributions of people with disabilities.”

Across the former Soviet Union, where disability stigmas are quite acute, JDC activities will include a Kiev-based seminar for professionals in JDC-supported Jewish community centers, schools, and kindergartens on disability-focused teaching methods. JDC and local Jewish organizations in Kishinev will hold a city-wide disabilities festival including workshops led by people with disabilities and the sharing of personal stories to educate the public about the struggles people with disabilities face. In Moscow, people with and without disabilities will celebrate at a disco party at a local JDC-supported Jewish community center in honor of the global day recognizing people with disabilities.

In Mumbai, a JDC Entwine Jewish Service Corp Fellow will lead volunteers to Om Creations — a nonprofit organization employing adults with Down syndrome and other disabilities in roles related to catering and crafts — where they will work with employees to bake challahs for sale to the Jewish community in India’s largest city. In Turkey, another JDC Entwine Jewish Service Corps Fellow will be assisting a local Jewish community center as it hosts a folk dancing program for children with and without disabilities.

In Israel, where dozens of JDC programs reach tens of thousands of people with disabilities, the #WithandWithout campaign was launched to change attitudes and fight stigmas around people with disabilities. The campaign involves asking the public to write what inclusion means to them on their hands and then share it on Facebook. By gathering posts from everyday Israelis and leaders of note, and matching those with as many posts from people with and without disabilities living throughout the regions JDC serves in their native language, bridges of understanding will be built. JDC social media platforms, including JDC Entwine’s expansive social media audience, will share the photos and hashtag.

In Berlin, the JDC-supported European Annual Conference of Jewish Social Welfare will bring together 150 Jewish professionals to explore best practices for the inclusion and integration of people with disabilities in Jewish communities on the continent. The seminar will include visits to local disability services, training sessions, and panel discussions with disability professionals. Avital Sandler-Loeff, director of JDC’s Israel Unlimited, will also be a speaker at Germany’s Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs “Inclusion Days – International” on December 4.