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Fairfield County Inclusivity Long Weekend May 19-22



Noted presenter and author Shelly Christensen to speak throughout the area on how to make sure that everyone in our area has access to Jewish programming and services.


Shelly Christensen, who’s ground breaking work in Minneapolis led to community wide embracement of inclusion, and the founding of Jewish Disability and Awareness Month (JDAM) will be the featured guest for Fairfield County’s first Long Weekend of Inclusivity, Thursday May 19th through Sunday, May 22, at various locations throughout our area.


Shelly Christensen literally wrote the book on inclusion of people with disabilities, the Jewish Community Guide to Inclusion of People with Disabilities which provides the roadmap and guidance that any faith-based organization can use to become more welcoming and intentionally inclusive of people with disabilities and those who love them.


The presentations will be held in schools, synagogues, community centers and at the offices of the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County.





Many young people with emotional, physical, or mental disabilities have not found a home or role in synagague or communal Jewish life. Even more troubling is the fact that when specially challenged young people reach adulthood and achieve independence there are very,very opportunities for them to have Jewish religious or social experiences.


When a young man on the Autism spectrum was able to attend our Un-Hebrew School, which features one on one instruction...” explained Rabbi Greg Wall of Beit Chaverim Synagogue in Westport, “he was able to learn enough to have a Bar Mitzvah, and  teach Torah (the Hebrew bible and teachings) to the congregation. From that point on he has been attending services religiously and become a key player in our minyan, the quorum of ten adults needed for communal prayer. He has become an impact player. Everyone should have this opportunity”, he said. "We must find a way to build a more inclusive Jewish community".


All programs are free and open to the public. 


Sponsored by Beit Chaverim Synagogue, The Conservative Synagogue, Temple Bnai Israel, Jewish Family Service of Stamford and the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County.

The schedule of presentations by Shelly Christensen:


Thursday, May 19 8:30AM, Federation for Jewish Philanthropy offices in Westport. Power Breakfast for Clergy, Lay leaders, and Educational staff : Drawing the Roadmap to Inclusivity - The Next Steps


Thursday, May 19 7:00PM JCC Stamford. Are You Being Served? The Jewish Town Hall Inclusivity Meeting. This Jewish Town Hall meeting will explore the questions: Just what does it take to be an inclusive supportive Jewish community for all? What will it take for our/your family to be included?


Friday May 20 Jewish High School of CT, Stamford.

12:00PM Educators Lunch: How inclusive do we want our schools to be?

12:45PM presentation to students and teachers, open to the community: Bridging the Gap Between Teachers and Unique Students. Shelly will discuss how to overcome differences to create an inclusive school environment.


Friday May 20 6:30PM The Conservative Synagogue, Westport

Shelly Christensen will be the guest speaker at Kabbalat Shabbat services.


Saturday, May 21 9:30AM Beit Chaverim Synagogue,Westport.

Shelly Christensen will be the guest speaker at Shabbat morning services


Sunday, May 22 10AM Friendship Circle/Chabad of Westport

Bagels, A Shmear and a Shmooze with Shelly Christensen. Shelly will discuss ideas on building on the wonderful volunteer work being done through the Friendship Circle, and creating a place for special needs children and their families in the synagogue and at Jewish cultural events. 


Shelly Christensen, MA, literally wrote the book on inclusion of people with disabilities, the Jewish Community Guide to Inclusion of People with Disabilities (Order Form). Her award-winning work as Program Manager of the Minneapolis Jewish Community Inclusion Program for People with Disabilities at Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis led her to co-found Jewish Disability Awareness Month with the Jewish Special Education International Consortium in 2009.


Shelly’s work as founder and Executive Director of Inclusion Innovations, where she provides training, organizational and community development, and strategic planning so Jewish organizations and communities around the world can become more welcoming and inclusive, is the standard in the field of sacred community inclusion.


Shelly is a graduate of the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities at the University of Delaware which, she writes, “changed everything I believed about including people with disabilities and their families in the Jewish community and transformed my work as a change leader.” Shelly holds a Master of Arts degree from the University of St. Mary’s in Developmental Disabilities and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Minnesota in Journalism.


Shelly is co-founder of the new Jewish Leadership Institute on Disabilities and Inclusion funded by the Ruderman Family Foundation Shelly speaks at numerous conferences including Union for Reform Judaism Biennials, ADVANCE, Jewish Federation of North America’s General Assemblies, the 2012 Disability Inclusion Initiative, the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Annual Conferences, and World Union for Progressive Judaism. She is a frequent speaker at sacred community conferences on inclusion providing keynotes and workshops.


Her articles on inclusion and parent perspectives have appeared in journals and magazines, and she has published chapters in a number of books including Jewish Lights “Judaism and Health,” and the “Jewish Funders Network Disabilities for Funders.” Shelly blogs on the Jewish Inclusion Leadership website, Inclusion Innovations website, the Ruderman Family Foundation’s Zeh LeZeh and the Jewish Weekly’s The New Normal.


Shelly’s passion for inclusion and belief that everyone has a right to participate in sacred community life as they wish, plus her personal experiences navigating both secular and Jewish worlds as the parent of a child with a disability gave her the inspiration to innovate the field. Shelly lives in Minneapolis with her husband Rick and their two Shelties, Ziva and Yafi. Their son and daughter-in-law Aaron and Nancy and sons Jake and Zachary live in the Twin Cities area.


For more info call Allison Halpern

Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County


Fri, June 9 2023 20 Sivan 5783