Shir Lanu – One Song, Every Voice. That is the name of the dynamic inclusion initiative at Congregation Shirat Hayam of the North Shore. The Conservative Jewish congregation in Swampscott has emerged as one of the bright stars among the synagogues that have partnered with the Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project (RSIP).
Over a decade ago, the Ruderman Family Foundation made disability advocacy and inclusion a top priority of its philanthropic mission. RSIP is just one of the foundation’s latest endeavors on behalf of disability rights. Synagogues that participate in the project are vetted for their commitment to any person who walks through their doors, especially those with disabilities.
In May 2016, RSIP and Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) celebrated synagogue inclusion in an event called “Opening Doors to Jewish Community.” Rabbi Julia Watts Belser, a professor of Jewish studies at Georgetown University’s theology department, was the keynote speaker. At that same occasion, Neshama Carlebach and Josh Nelson welcomed RSIP’s newest congregational partners and affiliates with their music.
This year singer-songwriter Neshama Carlebach will be back in the area supporting RSIP’s work at Shirat Hayam on Oct. 27-28. She will perform with her band and the Glory to God Gospel Singers with whom she frequently collaborates. In an interview with JewishBoston, Carlebach noted: “I perform at a lot of events, but it’s a rare gift when I want to be a part of one after the event has ended. I was blessed to sing at the RSIP program in 2016, and I was profoundly moved. I cried throughout the evening. It was so beautiful and powerful. I sobbed at the way Julia Watts Belser connected the merkava—the chariot—to God’s wheels. After that speech, there is almost not a day that I don’t see a car wheel or a bicycle wheel when I don’t think about God being on wheels.”