Janet Gunner & Sharla Bleichfeld
February 21, 2020

This month, the Community Spotlights will introduce you to individuals who are exploring the idea that “no one is more welcome here than you” – a project of the Center for Jewish Engagement and Learning (CJEL). 

“We view all human beings with infinite dignity, created in the image of God” (Temple Beth Tzedek mission statement). Temple Beth Tzedek Kesher Inclusion formed in 2000 and continues to fine-tune and evolve to actualize our mission by striving to dissipate isolation, provide support for individuals facing challenges of illness, disability, frailty and loss, and remove barriers to ensure full, seamless inclusion for every individual in our community.   Every TBT member is a member of Kesher Inclusion, at times providing Kesher services, at times receiving Kesher services.  Inclusion defines who we are and what we value at Temple Beth Tzedek.  We, Janet Gunner and Sharla Bleichfeld, are humbled as Kesher Inclusion co-chairs, to shepherd Kesher Inclusion, along with amazing Kesher leaders, and to participate in these inspiring activities.

Kesher initiatives are led by our dedicated, compassionate clergy, lay leaders and members and include: Bikur Holim (hospital, rehab and home visits); Phone Pals; Personal Cards at times of simcha, loss and illness; Birthday Cards to members ages 80+ and members with special needs; Transportation Network; monthly Mincha at Weinberg Program; LGBTQ+ Inclusion; Shiva, Shabbat, Passover Meal Program; Holiday and Shabbat Home Hospitality; Rosh Hashanah and Shavuot Deliveries to over 100 members in our thoughts; Lifelong Learning for Jewish Adults with Special Needs; monthly Havdalah-Shabbaton and Singalong Program at the Women’s Jewish Group Home; and our Outstretched Arm Program celebration of Sukkot, Hanukkah, Purim, Pesach and Shavuot/Shabbat together as community. Outstretched Arm activities are adapted to ensure that Jewish people of all abilities can participate in meaningful ways in our beloved Jewish traditions.  We are continually in search of additional effective approaches to achieve lifelong inclusion for everyone. Kesher Inclusion helps to ensure that we maintain a caring community at Temple Beth Tzedek.

Kesher Inclusion is also dedicated to the collaborative work of the Jewish Community Inclusion Task Force, the Jewish Community LGBTQ+ Inclusion Committee and the Buffalo Jewish Federation’s Center for Jewish Engagement and Learning Inclusion Planning Team. We also try to be a supportive participant of the Federation’s Buffalo Jewish Community Relations Council.  Undergirding Kesher Inclusion is the belief that meaningful opportunities for every person to participate fully in the Jewish community are essential for a vibrant, flourishing Jewish Buffalo.

 We are grateful to Janet and Sharla for their leadership of Kesher Inclusion at Temple Beth Tzedek and are honored to feature them in this week’s My Jewish Buffalo.

Janet Gunner & Sharla Bleichfeld - Janet Gunner and Sharla Bleichfeld