February is Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), uniting Jewish communities worldwide to help foster more inclusive Jewish communities that emphasize the value, dignity and capabilities of each and every individual. Originally founded as a national effort in 2009 by the Jewish Special Education International Consortium, the Greater Washington Jewish Community was among the very first group of communities to participate.
According to the Census Bureau, there are 36 million people who have at least one disability, about 12 percent of the total U.S. population. One of the biggest challenges faced by individuals with disabilities is the overall lack of acceptance by society. This month is an excellent time for people to help eliminate this stigma regarding all disabilities.
From it’s inception, Sunflower Bakery has always held dear the value, dignity and capabilities of each and every individual.
“We consider inclusion to be the cornerstone of our work. I remember in June of 2008, meeting with a group of parents and activists and talking about how there weren’t enough jobs and training out in the community for kids with disabilities. This is how it all got started.”
-Sara Portman Milner
Today, Sunflower Bakery prepares young adults with learning differences, through professional on-the-job training, for employment in pastry, baking and related food industries.
Founded on Jewish values, the Bakery encourages its students and graduates to advocate for themselves, both in training and in the workplace. Having the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities, vs. their disabilities, has been very empowering for those students involved.
Last week Michael, one of our students in Café Sunflower’s employment training program, participated with more than 100 others at the 7th annual Jewish Disability Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. They met with top government officials to lobby on behalf of programs that benefit people with disabilities. With pride, Michael told his story and the changes in his life as a result of the employment training at Café Sunflower. He stressed how important it is for everyone to have a job. That day on Capitol Hill, Michael stood for all people with disabilities. He was their voice and we hope government leaders heard his and all of the messages of inclusion.
Speaking on behalf of others who might not have the voice or the power to do so, is a familiar theme of Purim, which starts on March 12th. Just like Queen Esther who spoke on behalf of her Jewish people, today, we can thank Michael for his fearless work advocating for people with disabilities.
You can meet Michael at Café Sunflower, where we are selling a wide variety of hamantashen and other treats for Purim. Our students are busy at work in the kitchen, so place your order today!