Two local synagogues get award for inclusivity

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

Congregation Chevra Thilim and Congregation Beth Israel — Modern Orthodox synagogues in San Francisco and Berkeley, respectively — each received an Inclusive Synagogue Award for reaching out to individuals with disabilities, the Orthodox Union announced this week.

Thirty synagogues across the country were presented with the award from Yachad, the flagship program of the OU’s National Jewish Council for Disabilities.

Chevra Thilim was cited for its handicapped-accessible drop-off area and lighting, transportation to events for disabled members, preferential seating for those who need it, and the use of the PowerPoint Megillat Esther, OU’s Purim program for the deaf and hearing-impaired.

“What set them [Chevra Thilim]apart was they have inclusive youth services and programming,” noted Batya Jacob, director of the International Jewish Resource Center for Inclusion and Special Education, a division of Yachad.

Beth Israel was cited for inclusive features such as seating for individuals with special needs, large-print siddurs, ramp and handrails to the bimah and an inclusive day care program.

Rabbi Shlomo Zarchi of Chevra Tilim was pleased that his congregation was recognized. Each award-winner received a plaque.

“Over the past two years, we have done major upgrades to our facilities for people with disabilities and other difficulties,” he said, noting that the building was constructed in the mid-1940s.

He said narrow entryways were enlarged and many hazards were reduced.

“We put a lot of money into it,” he added. “We built some ramps, and just made things easier for a lot of people — from moms pushing strollers to the elderly. We wanted to create a more inclusive space for everyone.”

Yachad provides social, educational and recreational programs for individuals with learning, developmental and physical disabilities with the goal of their inclusion in the total life of the Jewish community. — j. staff