Jewish Disabilities Awareness Day


Rachel Simon, an award-winning author, and Leonard E. Barrett, a member of PHAMALY (Physically Handicapped Actors & Musical Artists League), will be featured at the fourth annual Jewish Disabilities Awareness Day on Sunday, February 12 from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm at the Robert E. Loup Jewish Community Center, 350 S. Dahlia St. The event, sponsored by the Jewish Disabilities Network (JDN), is free and open to the public. For special event accommodations, please contact Inna Ermakov at 303.623.0251 or

Jewish Disabilities Awareness Day is the cornerstone of the metro Denver Jewish community’s celebration of the national Jewish Disability Awareness Month, promoting understanding and inclusion in community life for Jewish people with disabilities. The goals of the day, which focuses on “finding ability in disability,” are to increase awareness, in both the Jewish and general community, of the abilities and contributions of people with special needs; to honor those who care for those with disabilities; and to provide valuable resources for families and caregivers. Childcare will not be provided.

Attendees will enjoy a keynote presentation by Rachel Simon, an award-winning author and nationally known speaker. She is best known for her critically acclaimed, best-selling memoir “Riding the Bus with My Sister,” which was adapted for a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie of the same name. Her newest book, “The Story of Beautiful Girl,” is an unforgettably moving love story about the improbable odds faced by a couple with disabilities and a lost child.

During her keynote presentation, “Taking the Journey Together,” Simon will talk about the Jewish values that are inherent in our loving and caring for people with special needs. She will also provide tips for surviving the challenges and celebrating the rewards of caregiving.

Through a national Jewish Disability Awareness Month project, “JDAM Reads,” people from across the country are encouraged to read and discuss “The Story of Beautiful Girl.” Simon created a discussion guide for the book, which is based on Jewish values and the inclusion of people with disabilities. Tattered Cover Book Store will be onsite during the event to sell both of Simon’s books and a portion of proceeds will be donated to Jewish Family Service. “The Story of Beautiful Girl” is the featured book at Tattered Cover in January and February and will be sold at a discounted price.

After the keynote presentation, participants can attend one of the following breakout sessions:

  • From Darkness to Light: Helping the Beautiful Girls Lead Beautiful Lives, presenter Rachel Simon
  • Respite: A Gift of Time, presenter Ayesha Sharma of the Colorado Respite Coalition
  • Family and Beyond: How Care Coordination Can Help, presenter Pam Valvano of Colorado Alliance for Health and Independence (CAHI)
  • Employment Panel, a facilitated conversation with employers of people with disabilities and those who operate employment programs, including SHALOM Denver, Goodwill, and King Soopers
  • Collaborative Quilt Project for all ages and abilities, facilitated by the Voices for Inclusion Program

Family members can attend a resource fair and meet with vendors from a variety of businesses that provide services for people with special needs in the areas of employment, estate planning, disability trusts, education, advocacy, socialization, respite, and more.

The afternoon will conclude with a performance by Leonard E. Barrett, a member of PHAMALY and winner of the Colorado Theatre Guild Henry and Denver Post Ovation Awards for Best Actor in a Musical. A dessert and art reception featuring paintings by Zach Inkeles will follow Leonard’s performance. The refreshments are provided by La Vie Catering with kosher supervision by Vaad.

We are delighted to offer such interesting and thought-provoking speakers at this year’s event,” says Sheryl Goodman, Jewish Disabilities Awareness Day chair. “We are especially excited about the resource fair, which will provide families and caregivers helpful information about valuable community resources—all in one place. The event promises to be entertaining, inspiring, informative, and fun!”

JDN is comprised of Jewish organizations dedicated to addressing the needs of Jewish people with special needs of all kinds and their families. It is a collaborative program of Jewish Family Service of Colorado, its SHALOM Denver work center, Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado, Keshet of the Rockies, and the Robert E. Loup Jewish Community Center.

The Jewish Disabilities Awareness Day committee members are Sheryl Goodman, chair, Lillian Chazin, Stuart Gottesfeld, Karen Huber, Peter Katz, Asher Kaye, Rabbi Jeffrey Kaye, Rhonda Kaye, Gretchen Koplin, Lynn Robinson, Jane E. Rosenbaum, Barry Rosenberg, and Pam Valvano.

Partner organizations supporting Jewish Disabilities Awareness Day include Denver metro area synagogues. Rabbis from several congregations plan to give sermons related to inclusion of people with disabilities during the month of February.

Visit for more event details or contact Inna Ermakov at 303.623.0251 or

About Jewish Family Service

JFS Boulder helps individuals maintain a high quality of life through programs and services that keep them supported, connected, and engaged. Services include care management, counseling, companionship, emergency assistance, and holiday celebrations. JFS serves everyone regardless of race, faith, gender, national origin, disability, or sexual orientation.

Check Also

I’m Dead! Now, What?

Join author Rick Light on June 10, 2024, at Boulder JCC for a workshop on Jewish death practices, including a free book and Q&A session.

white concrete building

Prayers for a New Israel

A Poem as we move between Passover and Shavuot.