Last March we celebrated inclusion at the Ruderman Family Foundation by holding an unforgettable event together with Koolulam, an Israeli mass singing initiative. Eight thousand people—with and without disabilities—gathered in Menorah Mivtachim, one of Israel’s largest concert halls in Tel Aviv, to sing together and acknowledge inclusion, diversity and equal rights, as part of Link20’s annual leadership event.

Link20 is a global social movement initiated by the Ruderman Family Foundation and led by a network of young activists with and without disabilities. Our goal is to raise awareness on the right of people with disabilities to be fully included in our society, and strengthen young activists’ leadership skills and influence in promoting inclusion and social justice.

Link20 members are young activists and advocates with and without disabilities who care about social justice and inclusion for all. Link20 creates a platform for social activism in the digital space. We do that by creating and promoting awareness campaigns, initiating and attending leadership and network events and taking active roles in designing programs on a local, national and global level.

At the event, we chose to sing “Shiro Shel Shafshaf,” a well-known Hebrew song, which conveys the optimistic message that we are all equal human beings and that it’s time to get together in order to make change and to spread the light. It was a very powerful experience to see so many different people come together to sing out loud with the belief that music connects us, and that only when joining many different voices can we make a significant change. The singer and performer Stephan Legar was amazing, taking part in the song together with a group of professional dancers that added value to the wonderful energies we all felt in the hall. We all felt the magical energy due to the fact that the audience mainly comprised young adults, including those with varied disabilities, as we all, as one, raised the voice of social justice and equality.

Jay, the president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, and myself, as well as Sharon Shapiro, the Foundation’s trustee, had the privilege to participate in this special event, together with many senior and professional guests and partners from the disability field. As I said to the audience: The only way to achieve real impact on disability issues is by acknowledging the differences between us and uniting our strengths.

Two alumni of the Link20 National Leadership Program opened the evening, and the Shalva band—consisting of singers with disabilities—joined as well, and it was very moving having the audience excited and enthusiastic.

The event was 100% accessible to people with all kinds of disabilities—there was a sign language interpreter and live transcription for people hard of hearing, braille lyrics for people visually impaired, wheelchair accommodations and more. It was a perfect demonstration of how it’s possible to hold an event that is respectful, festive and successful, as well as accessible to all—promising that anyone can enjoy it, with or without disabilities.

Link20 and the Ruderman Family Foundation welcome young people with and without disabilities to join the movement. This is the time to join our voices and spread the message in a loud and clear voice: including each strengthens us all.

Watch the video below to get a sense of this amazing event and to feel how powerful it was.

Shira-Ruderman-201×300Shira Ruderman is a professional philanthropist and social activist. She serves as the executive director of the Ruderman Family Foundation, a private family foundation that invests in three primary areas of focus: advocating for and advancing the inclusion of people with disabilities throughout our society, strengthening the relationship between Israel and the American Jewish community, and modeling the practice of strategic philanthropy worldwide.

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