Creating opportunities for meaningful, purposeful and relevant Jewish exploration.
The Center for Jewish Engagement and Learning’s Belonging vision is for all Jews, their friends and life partners, and people exploring Judaism to feel welcome to participate in Jewish living and learning experiences regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or ability.
Do you need help finding where you belong in Jewish Buffalo? We would love to get to know you. Please reach out to us to meet over Zoom, for coffee, lunch or a drink – we will come to you! Contact Mike Steklof at firstname.lastname@example.org
Robin Raphael, Chair
Kirstie Henry, Vice-Chair
Mike Steklof, Center for Jewish Engagement and Learning
Values that guide our work
ענוה - ANAVAH // HUMILITY
We focus on building relationships and creating shared experiences that build and deepen connections with everyone throughout Jewish Buffalo.
סקרנות – SAKRANUT //CURIOSITY
We encourage everyone to ask questions and explore their personal identity. We challenge assumptions and always ask how we can be more welcoming to all.
חזון - HAZON // VISION & INNOVATION
We are forward thinking and believe that Jewish Buffalo should be audaciously welcoming. We facilitate new kinds of experiences where all feel welcome; our work is ongoing and continually improving.
הלשון שמיראת - SH’MIRAT HALASHON // GUARDING ONE’S USE OF LANGUAGE
We will choose language that welcomes all interested in seeking depth and meaning in their Jewishness.
אלקים בצלם B’TZELEM ELOKIM // CREATED WITH THE SPARK OF THE DIVINE
We believe that everyone has something of value to contribute and everyone has a right to belong. We are inclusive of those raised inside Jewish community, those raised completely without Jewish community, individuals who are Jew-adjacent, and inclusive of all abilities, gender identities and sexual orientations.
כבוד KAVOD // RESPECT
We value the lived experience of everyone we encounter. We work to ensure that they feel that they are important and valued.
בזה זה כל ישראל ערבים - KOL YISRAEL AREVIM ZEH BAZEH // WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE FOR EACH OTHER
We believe that each person is responsible for all of humanity. It is our obligation to ensure that each person has all of their basic needs met.
תפרוש מן הציבור אל - AL TIFROSH MIN HATSIBUR // DO NOT SEPARATE YOURSELF
We are all in this together and work to ensure no one feels the need to remove themselves from Jewish Buffalo.
Inclusion to Belonging
Since the 1980’s, Jewish Buffalo has benefited from the tremendous effort of organizations, people, and philanthropists who work hard to ensure that people with cognitive and physical disabilities are able to participate in Jewish life. Although much progress has been made, the CJEL Inclusion Planning Team has expanded this effort, in alignment with the Buffalo Jewish Federation’s mission of creating a “welcoming and thriving network of communities” so that all feel welcome in Jewish Buffalo. Changing the name of our work from “Inclusion” to “Belonging,” represents this expansion by honoring decades of progress while acknowledging additional underserved groups with whom we seek to engage.
- Seeks and values engaging with people that are different from themselves
- Takes concrete steps to ensure programming, policy, and culture includes and affirms all people
- People are only asked for input and leadership on issues that pertain to them
- All people feel included and affirmed
- Everyone understands that learning and change must be ongoing
- “Nothing about us without us”
- Advocate for all people to belong in all parts of society
- All people are integral and fully seen
Director of Jewish Experience
Mike experienced the best of Rochester, Albany, Louisville, and Cleveland before choosing Buffalo as his home. Mike loves Buffalo for its warmth, weather, and charm. He is energized by connecting those who share similar passions, creating meaningful experiences and ensuring there is space for all to belong in Jewish Buffalo. Outside of the office, Mike can be found cooking savory vegetarian dishes, training for his next half marathon or walking the Ellicott Creek bike path.