Combined Jewish Philanthropies’ (CJP) latest inclusion activity is its launch of the CJP inclusion resources blog to help connect Boston’s Jewish community “to the latest in accessibility, inclusion, and the cutting edge of programs and events for people of all abilities and those who care about them.” The blog is a continuation of CJP’s mission to fulfill the most important needs and aspirations of the Boston community by bringing together people, partners, and resources. CJP expanded on its original mission by adding, “rooted in compassion and justice and driven by innovation, we care for the vulnerable, forge strong connections with Israel and, above all, inspire the next generation to embrace Jewish life and learning.”

CJP’s efforts to eliminate separation of people with and without disabilities by creating a philosophy of inclusion and community for people of all abilities is one way it furthers its misison. When CJP started its journey as the Federation of Jewish Charities of Boston (FJCB) on April 25, 1895 people with disabilities were not included in American society. In 1841, Dorothea Dix, a retired school teacher, was one of the first to initiate the fight for people with disabilities, encouraging the need for better living conditions and more rights.  Exposing the conditions for the disabled in poor houses and jails, the most troubling of what she saw were people with disabilities locked away in cells.[1] By the 1863, a trend to create better living conditions for people with disabilities started and twenty eight of the thirty three States had established public insane asylums, opening the eyes of the citizens of America to the need of better care for people with disabilities.[2] Following this trend, the young CJP welcomed the Jewish Big Brother Association into their foundation.  This program was one of their first to help those with disabilities and still exists today, renamed Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters in 1976. It continues to be “dedicated to enriching the lives of children and of adults with disabilities.” 

In the mid-1900s, many states, including Massachusetts, took it upon themselves to create more facilities for the disabled, CJP, as one of the pioneers in creating programs to benefit people with disabilities, established Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JF&CS) in 1946. Today, JF&CS “helps people of all faiths, races, and ages with the challenges of life” and, almost 150 years after its establishment, is “proud to be the place that new mothers, young families, people with disabilities, fragile elders, and the chronically poor can turn to for vital and personalized services.”

A turning point came in 1990 with the creation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA propelled the disabilities rights movement towards equal living and providing people with disabilities the civil rights protections previously granted to most other minorities. [3] The President of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund said, “all disabled people share on common experience—discrimination.”[4] Unfortunately, this is still true today, however, there is a strong movement toward a world in which people with disabilities are better understood and fully included in almost every aspect of American society. 

CJP continues its philosophy of inclusion with its newest program, Transitions to Work, started in 2011. Transitions to Work trains young adults with disabilities to develop the skills needed for employment and place them into jobs that provide earnings and a sense of purpose. It also builds relationships with employers to raise awareness about inclusive hiring practices and engage corporate partners to consider young adults with disabilities as qualified, committed candidates for employment opportunities. Through employment, these young adults have the opportunity to become meaningful participants in their communities.

Throughout American history, people with disabilities faced many struggles and severe discrimination. It is hard to look back and understand that just 150 years ago people with disabilities were living in terrible conditions; however, it makes us appreciate the inspirational work CJP has accomplished. A pioneer in inclusion when it was founded, CJP continues to teach others how to make a better community for all people. Partnering with many other programs, CJP has successfully helped the disabled Jewish community, has significantly impacted the greater Boston community, and has influenced other communities throughout the U.S. to make a change.  


[1] Steven J. Taylor, “Disability Study for Teachers,” Center of Human Policy, accessed May 19, 2013, http://www.disabilitystudiesforteachers.org/files/Womans_Crusade.pdf

[2] Ibid.

[3] Joseph P. Taylor, “No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement,” (1993): 6.

[4] Ibid., 7.