The links above to recordings of two NEC events are a great way to start getting an idea of the work that the committee has done in the past.


The Jewish Community of Amherst is committed to universal access and equal participation to spiritual and cultural life, regardless of a person’s visible or invisible disability, physical or mental health concerns, and chronic illness. We celebrate that all are made b’tzelem Elohim, in G-d’s image, (Genesis 1:26), and we honor the divine in ourselves and others when we remove the stumbling blocks (Leviticus 19:14) that marginalize disabled members of the community.

The Non-Exclusion Committee (NEC) initially formed as a workgroup in June of 2021.

During its first year, a Steering Committee was formed that developed a Mission Statement to guide the efforts of the JCA to become fully inclusive, building on the efforts of previous generations, which were substantial. The NEC became a permanent committee in December 2022. As many of the efforts of the NEC overlap with other committees, we see the NEC as a central hub for identifying goals and priorities and then working with committees to integrate non-exclusive practices as thoughtful considerations, as they plan their future needs and events. Because the efforts of the NEC as a permanent committee are new, we are in the process of establishing relationships with other committees to accomplish this and will be inviting committee members to our meetings to define communication protocols that will help us all stay on the same page.

Since January 2023, we have hosted our second event in honor of Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month (JDAAIM). The Rabbi completed an excellent course on The Ideal Body, drawing from Jewish laws and interpretations. For the coming months, we have several additional education opportunities in the planning stages including Ma’ariv talks, and an on-line program with a leader in the area of, what one leader calls, the Torah of Disability. Additional goals are listed below and will be prioritized through the JCA budget process.

Building Goals (based on an assessment completed by STAVROS)

  1. Install automatic door opening mechanism on the exterior door into the Main Sanctuary.
  2. Create access to the Bima in the Main Sanctuary for people who use wheelchairs.
  3. Install handicapped accessible exit door in the Small Sanctuary.
  4. Install Zoom access and upgraded audio in the Social Hall and Small Sanctuary.

Religious Life Goals

  1. Install additional mezzuzot in all required doorways so that there is one in the accustomed location and one lower to provide access to people who use wheelchairs and people of small stature.

Community Goals

  1. Develop an understanding and approach to supporting individuals with psychiatric and/or neurological disabilities in Jewish life.
  2. Further develop and refine approaches to supporting children with disabilities to participate in Camp Shemesh.
  3. Sponsor an event each February in recognition of Jewish Disability Awareness, Advocacy, and Inclusion Month.
  4. Develop the capacity to assure ASL interpreters are available for annual, semi-annual, and special meetings of the community; all holiday services and events, b’nai mitzvot and at least one Friday night and one Saturday morning Shabbat service

Here is a link to a D’var Torah given in memory of Jacob Speaks.

Here is a link to the NEC mission statement.