In our work with individuals and families of all abilities, “the stone that the builders refused, has become the cornerstone.”
Soon you will walk into our building and see a certificate stating that CBJ has successfully completed the Rosh Pina program. This is a wonderful statement about who we are as a community.
What is Rosh Pina? It is an organization that teaches and certifies institutions in the Jewish community as being places where all are welcome and included. We are in the midst of this one-year program, and it has been a powerful opportunity to ensure that individuals and families of all abilities are included as integral parts of our community: services, school, membership, and communication. We are studying best practices and working together to improve in all facets of CBJ life.
Why the name Rosh Pina? It comes from a verse in Psalms 118:22 that we sing during the Hallel service (a special service with Psalms of gratitude for festivals). It states:
The stone that the builders [of the Temple] refused, has become the cornerstone (rosh pina).
It expresses the powerful belief that things/people that were overlooked or rejected are in fact the foundation of our success. Such a belief emerges from a theology of tzelem Elohim, the belief that there is divinity in each and every person. Our communal job is to see that divinity and to create an inclusive community where the divinity of each person can be nurtured and can shine.
Rabbi Brad Artson, the Dean of the Ziegler School at American Jewish University, writes powerfully about his son Jacob, who is diagnosed with autism, and how an attitude of tzelem elohim can inform how Jacob is treated by community. He writes,
I can see in my son, a beautiful soul, and a zisen neshomeh trying to express itself. . . . I see Jacob beating against the limits of his autism, struggling to emerge. . . . But I also see people shying away from Jacob—confusing his illness from him and not seeing the beautiful boy but seeing instead a label, autism. Jacob isn’t autism and Jacob isn’t autistic. Jacob is Jacob. And he is like every other child, precious, and sweet, and beautiful if you can learn to address him in a way that he can respond to. It takes effort. It takes starting with Jacob’s illness and working toward Jacob’s soul, so that his label is a tool, not an obstruction.
Rosh Pina will help guide us to see and treat everyone as worthy of our love. We can create a synagogue where everyone feels welcome and included. Thus far, we have focused on our schools, and we are now branching out to include celebrations, services, communication, and a community awareness event in the spring. During the certification process, Rosh Pina will challenge us to be mindful and proactive in all facets of creating an inclusive community: physical structure, curriculum, family programming, language use, and leadership. We have formed a lay-committee of members, which meets every other month. The committee tracks the progress of certification and reflects about the relationship between the institution, Judaism, and disabilities. We have a long history of being pioneers in this work.
In 2004 CBJ formed a task force to look at special needs in our community and ways to become more inclusive. Over the years the task force has grown into the Special Needs Committee. It has been responsible for surveys, awareness events, a community-wide Day of Learning, and workshops for teachers in both the Preschool and Religious School. We have collaborated with Jewish LearningWorks and other North Peninsula institutions to embrace the North Peninsula Special Needs Initiative, now called INCLUDE. We are proud to share the holy work of inclusion with the broader community and to invite your participation. Please contact Ann Cauterucci if you want to participate.
I am grateful for teachers and staff at CBJ who are devoted to this value and appreciate the passion and devotion our community has displayed as we move forward in creating a truly inclusive community.