By Lauren Appelbaum
RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities for and with people with disabilities, gratefully announces the launch of Project Moses, made possible by a Cutting Edge Grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles (The Foundation). The $300,000 grant will be distributed over three years. Project Moses, named for our greatest Jewish leader, himself a person with a disability, is a training and placement program for talented Jews with disabilities to serve the Jewish community of greater Los Angeles. This will revolutionize the relationship between Jews with disabilities and the greater community.
“We’re proud to support RespectAbility and its groundbreaking work promoting inclusion and empowerment of people with disabilities,” said Marvin I. Schotland, foundation president and CEO. “Through Project Moses, Jews with disabilities will have the training and opportunity to serve their communities in leadership roles. Their inclusion will produce a stronger, more diverse Jewish community where more voices are heard.”
The centerpiece of Project Moses is the training of 36 “Moseses” each year – college or equivalent educated Jews with disabilities who are new to Jewish leadership, have left or are at risk of leaving Jewish leadership roles after acquiring a disability, and are eager to stay engaged. If you are a potential Moses, or you know a potential Moses, RespectAbility is looking for you.
With support from The Foundation, we will provide Moseses with ongoing skills training and mentorship, and pair them with Jewish organizations eager to accept their talent, first as volunteers and board members, with some eventually transitioning to Jewish professional roles.
Complementing this mentorship will be a series of seven locally run but nationally streamed trainings for Jewish organizations. “We recognize that the key to success lies in training for both sides, and matchmaking to enable true contributions,” said Matan Koch, director of Project Moses. “Project Moses will be a win-win for Jews with disabilities and LA’s Jewish community overall, as the entire community benefits from the talent surge of people with disabilities, while learning the latest best practices in inclusion.”
Koch is a graduate of Yale College and the Harvard Law School, with more than 25 years of Jewish lay leadership at all levels, including as a member of the Shusterman ROI community. A wheelchair user, Koch has served in disability leadership roles in the government, nonprofit, and corporate sectors, and is an internationally recognized expert in the inclusion of people with disabilities. He will relocate to Los Angeles thanks to this grant.
“We could not be more excited to launch this brand-new program which will build on our longtime commitment to both Jewish inclusion and creating welcoming and respectful organizations and communities,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility.
In addition to training our 36 Moseses, Project Moses will serve as the focal point for the vast expansion of RespectAbility’s library of content for Jewish organizations seeking to benefit from the participation of Jews with disabilities. Every webinar and training developed for Project Moses will be perpetually available to organizations all over the world as they seek to utilize best practices in the inclusion of people with disabilities. RespectAbility is especially excited to partner with the Jewish Deaf Community Center in the creation of new materials to connect deaf Jews to the Jewish community.
Said Delbert Whetter, a RespectAbility board member and advocate for ensuring that LA’s Deaf Jewish community has a voice within the larger Jewish community in LA, “It is vital for people with disabilities to be at every decision-making table and this includes in Jewish leadership where we have a lot to contribute to the success of the Jewish community.”
Said Sharon Ann Dror, president and founder, Jewish Deaf Community Center, who will be a key partner in the work, “I look forward to expanding new opportunities within the Jewish Deaf Community and working with our Jewish hearing allies to explore new ways of interacting with the Jewish community at large.”
RespectAbility is currently recruiting for our inaugural class of Moseses. If you are a college or equivalent-educated Jew with a disability who aspires to build or expand your leadership in the community, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.