Inclusion, Diversity and Accessibility
Every person who seeks to journey with us is welcome and entitled to full and meaningful participation in Jewish and congregational life. Our goal is to celebrate each person’s individuality, creativity and unique contributions.
Beth El is open and inclusive to all. We joyfully welcome you!
People from many different backgrounds — Jews by birth and Jews by choice, people still deciding whether to become Jewish, white Jews and Jews of color, interfaith households, people with limited prior Jewish learning and people with extensive Jewish experience — are part of the Beth El community. We are two-parent and single-parent families, couples and individuals of all ages, and families formed by adoption (including transracial/transnational adoption) and by birth. Our membership includes LGBTQIA+ individuals and couples, multiracial families, people of varied education and socioeconomic levels, and people living with physical, developmental and mental health challenges.
We seek the active involvement of all our members in worship, learning, the social life of the congregation, repairing the world, and in congregational leadership at every level. We believe that:
- Every person is created in God’s image, and has equal value and dignity no matter who they are.
- Our community is enriched by diversity in all its forms.
- We benefit individually and as a community when we recognize that every person’s identity is a complex mix, and no one is defined by a single story.
- Our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging requires ongoing learning, reflection, action, and personal and institutional transformation.
Beth El’s Progress
We continue to make progress toward achieving diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.
- In 1975 we created the country’s first egalitarian, gender-neutral prayer book which, in updated form, we still use today (now with English transliterations).
- Our clergy performed its first same-sex spiritual wedding in 1992, twelve years before same-sex marriage was legally recognized in Massachusetts and 23 years before it became the law of the land in the United States.
- Members canvassed door-to-door for Massachusetts Question 3 in 2018, which preserved civil rights for transgender people in Massachusetts.
- Our Antiracism Working Group is working to embed a racial equity lens into all aspects of congregational life.
Our work is never complete and we sometimes miss the mark. We are continually learning how racism and social and economic injustice remain prevalent in and outside Jewish life. We recognize that just by saying we are a welcoming community doesn’t make it so, and we strive at all times to do better. We warmly welcome you to join us in this journey.
For more information, please email Inclusion Committee chairs Maxine Haron or Carrie Fuchs.
Embracing full inclusion at Beth El has meant making improvements to our building, enhancing our prayer life, and designing accessible programming. It has also set in motion a process of examining our personal and communal values and practices. These are some of the things we’ve done and are continuing to do.
- Automatic accessible doors have been installed at exterior entrances
- A beautifully designed wooden ramp leading from our sanctuary to the Gan Hadorot (Garden of the Generations) makes our beautiful garden accessible to all who want to pray, socialize or relax outdoors.
- Our adjustable amud (Torah table) can be raised and lowered to accommodate anyone who wishes to read Torah
- Reading glasses, large-print prayerbooks and augmented listening equipment are available to assist with visual and auditory needs
- A section of the sanctuary is designated as “fragrance free” during services
- Focus tools can be helpful for anyone who tends to “fidget” in services or during other gatherings
- A guide to inclusion for families of b’nai mitzvah students
- Congregational partner in the Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project
- Live streaming, Zoom broadcasting, audio and video recording of services and programs
- Gender-neutral bathrooms are an important communal issue of equity and access. At the same time, bathrooms are pretty personal! Join the Gender-Neutral Bathroom Committee at one (or more!) of three events to learn why it’s important, ask questions, and provide input on how Beth El can create a space that is comfortable for all.
Education and group activities
Festive events like Hanukkah can be overwhelming and confusing for some children as well as young people and adults. Children may respond differently to loud noises and large groups of people. This is especially true for those with sensory processing difficulties. They might be able to manage initially, and then need to take breaks in a quieter space.
Reading simple “social stories” before a big and/or unfamiliar event can help a child know what to expect and help them prepare by reducing anxiety about what’s about to happen, especially if it’s an unfamiliar event.
- jkidACCESS — more ideas and information about inclusion in Jewish communal and educational settings for kids with disabilities
- Books and binders of social stories for Shabbat, High Holidays, and now Chanukah are available for loan on the rainbow-colored bookshelf below the tallit shelf as you enter the Beth El sanctuary