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JNF-USA Highlighting Jewish Disabilities Awareness With Marlee Matlin Event

Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA) is holding a national virtual event, “Leaving No One Behind,” on January 31. The event is going to feature Oscar-winning actress and bestselling author Marlee Matlin, who is Jewish and deaf, as the keynote speaker. 
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January 27, 2022
Academy Award-Winning actress Marlee Matlin headlines JNF-USA’s event kicking off Jewish Disabilities Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month (Photo courtesy JNF-USA)

February is Jewish Disabilities Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month (JDAAIM), which raises awareness about disabilities within the community and encourages inclusion. This year, to commemorate JDAAIM, Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA) is holding a national virtual event, “Leaving No One Behind,” on January 31. The event is going to feature Oscar-winning actress and bestselling author Marlee Matlin, who is Jewish and deaf, as the keynote speaker. 

“JNF-USA has been the leader in Jewish philanthropy and a natural partner for me in my goal to pass along the lessons of tikun olam I learned from my parents, my teachers and my mentor, Henry Winkler,” said Matlin, a trailblazer who was the only deaf actress to win the Oscar, told the Journal. “In particular, I am proud of their commitment towards the Jewish deaf and disability community as exampled by their support of Special in Uniform in Israel.”

JNF-USA is the leader in raising funds for people with disabilities in Israel. The organization’s initiatives include Special in Uniform, which incorporates young adults with disabilities into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran, a state-of-the-art rehabilitative village in the Negev Desert that’s home to more than 150 children and young adults with complex medical conditions and severe disabilities.

Soldiers from JNF-USA’s Special in Uniform (Photo courtesy of JNF-USA)

It also runs LOTEM, an organization that makes nature accessible for people with disabilities in Israel, and Red Mountain Therapeutic Riding Center, which is in the Negev Desert and provides equine therapy to people with developmental, emotional, neurological, behavioral and/or learning disabilities. 

“People with disabilities make up the world’s largest minority group, and it’s important for individuals and organizations across the country to raise awareness and foster inclusion for people with disabilities and special needs in February during Jewish Disabilities Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month, and all year long, to ensure no member of our community is left behind,” said JNF-USA National Campaign Director Sharon Joy.

According to Joy, every year, JNF-USA raises millions of dollars to support Israel’s population, including people with disabilities, so that they can fully experience the wonders and beauty of their country. 

David Mamet (Photo courtesy JNF-USA)

Playwright David Mamet, a JNF-USA Disabilities Task Force Member based in L.A. who will also speak at “Leaving No One Behind,” told the Journal the task force “leads the world in raising funds and awareness to improve the lives of these individuals and their families. My family and I have benefitted from their work. I urge you to support them.”

Joy said that over 1,000 people are expected to join JNF-USA for the kickoff event, which will showcase information about the organization’s disability programs. Local sponsors include Young Israel of Century City, Beth Jacob Congregation and Young Israel of North Beverly Hills, and all gifts that are given to JNF-USA toward JDAAIM are going to be matched, up to $1 million, through February 28.

“The tenet of tikkun olam is one of the foundations of Judaism and [reminds] people out there, both Jews and non-Jews alike, of our dedication to reaching out to all people regardless of their abilities.”
— Marlee Matlin

For Matlin, participating in the JNF-USA event is important because it highlights the commitment Jews “have had historically towards inclusion of those that society has overlooked and marginalized,” she said. “The tenet of tikkun olam is one of the foundations of Judaism and [reminds] people out there, both Jews and non-Jews alike, of our dedication to reaching out to all people regardless of their abilities.”

To register for the event, visit jnf.org/JDAAIMkickoff.

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