Guide to Inclusion Policies and Practices

The following is information from all the synagogues and main agencies of the community with respect to the services in place at each regarding inclusion accommodations, practices, and policies. This is not a definitive guide to the inclusion services offered in the Jewish community of Nashville, and these services are being added to on a regular basis. 



Akiva School


  • Creating the equivalent of an IEP to support students’ continued support and growth

  • Differentiated learning and leveling in the Hebrew language experience 

  • Differentiated learning and small group opportunities with a learning specialist (where applicable) in all GS classes.

  • Providing spaces for children with all learning needs to learn together and find comfort in each other’s strengths and areas of growth (students with dyslexia, dysgraphia, weaknesses in verbal expression, weaknesses in executive functioning, selective mute, etc...)

  • Creating varied opportunities to express knowledge (art, music, dance, poems, reflections, writer's response, etc...)

  • Providing each child what he or she needs to be successful with the ultimate goal of having them be able to get any additional services in the course of their day (including speech, OT, additional academic support, etc...)

  • All Jewish families regardless of levels of observance welcome

  • Interfaith, multi-racial, and LGBTQ+ families welcome 

  • Participates in local and national social action projects

  • Teachers and staff receive professional development for best teaching practices for a wide spectrum of learners

  • Teachers and staff receive professional development in inclusive practices including positive behavior supports and techniques

  • The building is wheelchair accessible 

  • Updated technology in classrooms to help facilitate visual learners’ needs

  • Full-time Learning Specialist to support students who need academic support and those who need academic enrichment

  • School Counselor who works closely with students and faculty to ensure behavioral supports are put in place


To learn more about Akiva Advantage and our inclusive community and supports, please contact the Director of Enrollment and Operations, Julie Fortune at


Chabad of Nashville


What Is Inclusion?

True inclusion begins with a mindset – a change in our thinking.


Chabad has pioneered this concept in its truest form, valuing every person based solely on that person’s inner essence. The Chabad philosophy tasks us to make Judaism accessible to every Jew, without regard to that person’s physical or spiritual status. Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of Blessed Memory, has empowered every Chabad Center to be instinctively inclusive — to embrace each and every Jew and treat him or her like family, regardless of background or lifestyle. 


Inclusion goes beyond welcoming and accessible spaces. Real inclusion is when someone feels that they belong—and that they are valued. We achieve inclusion when we not only treat people like equals but when we also truly believe that each person is our equal. Of course, this does not mean that everyone is the same. It means, rather, that each person has the ability to succeed and thrive if given the appropriate supports to do so.


But how do we know what is meaningful and important to another person?

We open our doors.

We ask.

We listen.

We take the journey together.


We do not do things for people with disabilities. We do things with people with disabilities. It is time for us to acknowledge that “Inclusion” (with a capital “I”) means, simply, that we treat people as individuals – not as a group of “those people” whose needs can be met through special programs or occasional visits to synagogues.


How do we Create an Inclusive Jewish Community?

Chabad of Nashville raises awareness and supports people with disabilities in our communities by incorporating practices that stress the importance of belonging. 


  • The rabbi shares sermons on inclusion and engages the community in discussion.

  • Chabad offers tours of the shul to people who are new or visiting so they can become familiar and feel more comfortable. They can see and touch ritual items, stand at the bimah, and find a seat where they will be comfortable sitting. Familiarity can help ease some anxiety about a new situation.

  • We announce page numbers often. Describe the siddur and chumash by color and size, in addition to the name.

  • We Ask people with disabilities ahead of time to participate in the service. We Honor them by calling them to the Torah and helping them practice the blessings. We ask people with disabilities and their family members to give the d’var Torah, carry the Torah, and say Kiddush.

  • We encourage families to hold milestone celebrations for a child with a disability synagogue so that your community can attend.

  • Provide siddurim and chumashim in an accessible format (i.e. Braille, large print, audio versions).

  • At each service, we encourage congregants to turn to their neighbors and introduce themselves and make sure that every person has someone with whom to share this greeting.

  • Promote Inclusion. Invite people with disabilities to attend services, programs, and events by including an accessibility statement in our publications. 


Every Chabad community is committed to creating an inclusive and welcoming environment. The Chabad Center has ensured that its facility is ADA accessible to all who visit.


  • All entrances to Chabad center, sanctuary, pre-school & religious school are wheelchair accessible. There are not any stairs at any entrance to Chabad.

  • There are three handicap-accessible bathrooms that are wheelchair accessible.

  • Outdoor patio with a ramp for wheelchair accessibility 

  • Accommodation for wheelchair seating in the sanctuary

  • There are various prayers booklets that are large print.

  • Handicapped parking at the Chabad Center

  • Seating accommodations for people using wheelchairs

  • On program information, we include special accommodations that can be provided upon request


Thank you for joining us in taking these important steps toward inclusion. Together, we can achieve our goal – to create a culture of inclusion for all in the Nashville Jewish community!


Congregation Micah 


“Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with thy God”


The mission of Congregation Micah is to serve all of Middle Tennessee offering creative and diverse ways to celebrate Jewish life using the rich beliefs and practices of modern Reform Judaism as its foundation.  We have adopted the words of Micah (6.8), the biblical prophet and civil rights advocate as a message of equality and welcome for all.



  • Annual funding for an Inclusion Specialist who also serves on the Federation’s Inclusion Committee

  • Member of NOAH – Nashville Organized for Action and Hope

  • Interfaith and Multi-Racial Family-Friendly 

  • Welcoming the LGBTQ community through programming, signage and gender-inclusive restroom

  • ADA-compliant building and campus

  • Updated strategic plan includes new inclusion practices and programs

  • Monthly participation in local, national and/or global social action projects




  • Worship experiences include English, transliteration and Hebrew with diverse musical accompaniment 

  • Large-print siddurim

  • Hearing assistance devices

  • Hands-free worship for all ages with projected prayers

  • Livestreaming for the homebound and out-of-town

  • Welcoming committee members at all in-person services

  • Special programs for Seniors, including weekly “Schmooze and Views” sessions

  • Multi-sensory worship service support materials including “busy bags”, sensory boards & noise-canceling headphones

  • Closed-captioning services provided for select services through a generous TN Disability Coalition grant, benefitting livestream viewers worldwide




  • Inclusion Specialist available to all Micah Children’s Academy 

  • Staff training in inclusive practices including positive behavior supports and techniques

  • Partnership with Matan for training and materials to develop and support differentiated learning plans for both in-person and virtual learning

  • The Shema taught and practiced in ASL

  • Use of social stories to help prepare students for group participation 

  • Hebrew instructional options include one-on-one and small-group tutoring 


Contact: Julie Greenberg, Education Director, jgreenberg@congregationmicah.org615-377-9799 

Congregation Sherith Israel


Guiding Values

As an Open Orthodox synagogue, Congregation Sherith Israel (CSI) is a welcoming community for individuals of all ages, abilities, countries of origin, and Jewish backgrounds. In our Jewish spiritual home, everyone is accepted, respected, and valued. We encourage and support congregant participation and facilitation with myriad ritual and service opportunities. We strive to engage and personally interact with all congregants. We work closely with the Jewish Federation of Nashville to create an inclusive shul community.



We are committed to keeping our congregants, guests, and premises as safe as possible from external physical threats, internal hazards, and we attend to serious health risks and vulnerabilities as needed. We have a comprehensive security committee comprised of both contracted and volunteer/member licensed security guards. We have made security improvements to our locked doors and entry and exit points. We take COVID-19 risk and containment seriously. We make decisions related to on-site services/programming, social distancing, and virtual programming, under the guidance of our medical advisory committee.


List of Accessible Features

·       Hearing loop for hearing impaired

·       Wheelchair accessible seating in the sanctuary

·       Mobility assistance upon request

·       First aid equipment

·       Fibrillator equipment


Inclusion Commitment 

At CSI, we strive to continually learn and grow with our understanding of inclusion and inclusive practices, to best serve the spiritual needs of all congregants and guests to our shul. We seek out best practice information, resources, and training to be welcoming, inclusive, and accommodating to all, to the greatest extent possible. We are open to feedback, both within and from outside the synagogue, to help guide this commitment. We know there is always more to learn and more that we can do to accommodate and best meet the needs of our entire synagogue community.


Contact: Adam Horn, Chair, Membership Welcoming Committee,

Gordon Jewish Community Center


The mission of the Gordon JCC is to welcome all, build community, and provide excellent programs rooted in Jewish values to enrich the mind, body, and spirit. We realize that each person who participates in our programs may have different abilities, and we strive to meet every person's needs so we can fulfill our mission to welcome all.


  • In Early Childhood, our teachers assess developmental milestones and work with parents and pediatricians as needed. We welcome specialists to train our staff and to work with our children. We partner with TEIS, Metro Schools, and private therapists who help develop goals for our children’s success.

  • Camp Davis is committed to creating a spiritual community by appreciating the differences that all campers and counselors bring to the summer experience. With support from the Lori Ann Fishel Fund of the Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, we have added an Inclusion Specialist to our camp staff who helps children with atypical neurological development and behavioral disabilities to have a successful summer experience. The Inclusion Specialist also helps train staff to handle difficult situations as they arise.

  • In our fitness areas, we carefully address accessibility. Our pools have ramps and/or lifts to allow swimmers to safely enter the water. Staff members are trained in first aid and AEDs. We are planning Family Changing Rooms to allow privacy for those who need a quiet place to change.

  • We work with Seniors to address a variety of special needs from specialized transportation to large print books and activities that are accessible to all.


Contact: Anita Howard, anita@nashvillejcc.org615-354-1621


Jewish Family Service


Jewish Family Service strives to accommodate all individuals who desire services. While we have the basic ADA structure for physical disabilities, we look at each person’s specific needs.  Whether it be a physical accommodation or a mental one, we provide services to everyone regardless of their unique abilities.


  • Handicapped accessible buildings and offices

  • Wheelchair accessible

  • Single handicapped bathroom

  • Handicapped parking

  • Mobility assistance available upon request

  • Will consider all requests for accommodations


Contact: Toni Jacobsen, Clinical Director of JFS, at or by phone at 615-354-1672.

Jewish Federation & Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee


The Jewish Federation & Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee is the central voluntary communal organization of the Jewish community. Through its fundraising, planning, and community relations efforts, either independently or in partnership with other Jewish organizations, the Federation works to promote the general welfare, viability, and cohesiveness of the Jewish community of Nashville and Middle Tennessee and to ensure the continuity of the Jewish people locally, in Israel and around the world.


We are leading the way in providing inclusion training, education, and programming to our employees and partner organizations because we are committed to developing, strengthening, and celebrating the diverse community of Jewish Nashville.


Our inclusion efforts:

  • Accommodation requests for Federation programs are met to the best of ability

  • Working with organizations in the community to help with their inclusion efforts

  • Placement of an inclusion-related question in all application forms for possible grant-funded programs

  • Training of Federation staff on inclusion by experts

  • Establishment of a community-wide Inclusion Committee

  • Development of a community-wide survey to understand inclusion needs by community members

The Rohr Chabad House at Vanderbilt University


The Rohr Chabad House at Vanderbilt University is committed to helping every Jewish student partake in Jewish life on campus. We ask students if they need special accommodations and work with them on fulfilling their needs. 


Contact: Rabbi Shlomo Rothstein,, 615-686-3905


The Temple – Congregation Ohabai Shalom


At The Temple, we live by the value of B’tzelem Elohim (“We are all created in God’s image”) and want all who enter our building (or attend a virtual event) to feel comfortable and that their needs are being met. The Temple is a member of NOAH – Nashville Organized for Action and Hope and we also welcome Interfaith/Multifaith, LGBTQ, and Multi-Racial families. Accommodations and assistance that are requested will be met to the best of our ability.


Currently, the Temple provides the following-



  • Handicapped parking

  • Single stall gender-inclusive restroom

  • First Aid/ Defibrillator equipment

  • Hearing enhancement devices



  • Welcoming Committee at services

  • English/Hebrew/Transliteration prayer books

  • Livestreaming services/programs

  • Large print books for services

  • Ramp to our pulpit

  • Written and personal (one on one) technical support for all virtual events



  • Elevator access to all classrooms

  • Support students of all needs

  • Intentional planning for the inclusion of all abilities for our new outdoor learning environment

  • Preschool welcomes and accommodates needs for support professionals for children receiving developmental services

  • Meet the Bar/Bat Mitzvah student where they are to ensure success


Leadership and Planning:

  • Hired Director of Membership and Inclusion

  • Creation of Inclusion Committee* (2021)


We at The Temple are always looking for ways to be more inclusive. We have made it a priority to be more accessible to people of all abilities, and we continue to access our needs.


Contact: Sheri Rosenberg,  Director of Membership and Inclusion, or at  615-352-7620 ext 227

West End Synagogue


West End Synagogue ensures that accommodations are made as much as possible for those who request such assistance. In addition, the synagogue provides the following services to anyone who enters the synagogue:


  • Large print books for services

  • Hearing enhancement devices

  • Zero-step entrance to the building, sanctuary, pre-school & religious school

  • Plan for exiting the building in an emergency includes how to help people with disabilities

  • Usher assistance exiting vehicles, entering the building for Holiday services

  • Seating accommodations for people using wheelchairs

  • New for COVID but good for accessibility and will continue - recorded and live video of services, Rabbi’s sermon, Religious School classes


Contact: Stephen Potash, President, or 615-336-8298

Vanderbilt Hillel


Vanderbilt Hillel serves the religious, social, and educational needs of the undergraduate and graduate Jewish-student communities at Vanderbilt University and other higher education institutions in Middle Tennessee.  The organization is committed to creating an inclusive environment and strives to produce accessible programming at the Schulman Center for Jewish Life and on campus. Accommodations offered include, but are not limited to:


  • Virtual accommodations for distanced participation

  • Stepless entry into the Schulman Center

  • Powered door entries into the Schulman Center

  • Single-stall restrooms at the Schulman Center

  • Elevator access to the second floor of the Schulman Center

  • Handicapped parking at the Schulman Center

  • Provisions for dietary restrictions at programming

  • Amplified sound at programming

  • Travel aid assistance for Vanderbilt Hillel’s Taglit-Birthright Israel – Campus Trip participants


Additional services may be available through Vanderbilt University for students and guests. 


Contact: Brian Small, Vanderbilt Hillel Assistant Director, at, for more information or with questions.

Greater Nashville/Middle Tennessee Community-wide Resources


Tennessee Disability Pathfinder Agency Search (Tennessee Disability Pathfinder Home (


Tennessee Disability Pathfinder offers a statewide database of services including everything from social service agencies to low-income medical clinics to recreational programs. You can search the updated database by region or service type or narrow it further via our advanced search feature. This function will allow you to filter by categories like age, type of disability, and funds accepted. Some of the topics covered in this search engine include:


  • Accessible Parking Placard

  • ADA Information and Assistance

  • Adult Day Services

  • Advocacy

  • Aging and Disability Medicaid Waiver Programs

  • Animal Aides

  • Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy

  • Arts & Music programs’

  • Assistive/Enabling technology

  • Autism Resources

  • Automotive/Van Adaptions

  • Intellectual Disabilities Resources

  • In-home Assistance Programs

  • Learning Disability Resources

  • Mental Health Treatment Facilities

  • Ramp Construction Programs

  • Recreation Programs

  • Respite Care

  • Residential Services

  • Special Education

  • Specific Disability & Health-related Resources

  • State Government Agencies

  • Support Groups

  • Transitional Services


If you need more one-on-one attention, call our helpline at 1-800-640-4636.

Saddle Up!

Where all children are equal in the saddle!


For over 30 years, Saddle Up!, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, has been transforming the lives of children and young adults diagnosed with a disability or learning difference through the movement and motivation of the horse. Saddle Up! annually empowers over 200 special equestrians ages 2 through 26 to grow stronger and thrive by employing a care team of trained instructors, therapists, therapy horses, and volunteers. Through interactions with their fellow riders and care team members, riders learn to socialize independently and gain confidence that impacts every aspect of their lives. 


As Middle Tennessee’s largest and oldest Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) Premier Accredited Center exclusively serving children and youth, Saddle Up! is often recognized as the benchmark facility for best practices in our industry. A premier accreditation ensures that our programs are safe, and evidence-based and that our management staff, certified instructors, and licensed therapists adhere to the strictest professional standards. Our therapy horses are carefully selected and trained and then matched to the needs of each rider and their volunteer team. The non-judgmental relationship between horse and rider, the encouragement of each team member, and the warm and familiar environment of our 34-acre farm often allow a child to go beyond what they have achieved in other settings. 


Saddle Up! therapeutic riding programs include Adaptive Riding, Therapy Services such as Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy which use the horse as a treatment partner, Advanced Rider Equestrian Club, Equine Assisted Learning, Interactive Vaulting, and Alumni Transitions, a program serving Saddle Up! graduates, many of whom have aged out of other services.

Our Place Nashville


Our Place Nashville empowers adults with developmental disabilities by providing homes that are affordable, work that is meaningful and inclusive communities in which to live. We currently accommodate 70 residents — friends with developmental disabilities, graduate students (primarily from Vanderbilt University), and older adults — who live together in four Friendship Houses, creating supports for our friends, a new generation of advocates in our students and intergenerational relationships and an end to social isolation for our older adults. We will be more than doubling in size — to more than 160 residents — in 2023.


You can see a short overview of our work at


For more information, visit our website at or contact Executive Director Carolyn Naifeh via the information below. We’d be delighted to answer any questions you might have about one of your loved ones becoming a part of our Friendship House community. 


Carolyn Naifeh 

Co-Founder and Executive Director 

Cell: 615-651-0060

Siskin Children’s Institute


Siskin's Children's Institute - Nashville was established in 2020 as an extension of the Chattanooga-based facility established in 1950. Our Nashville clinic provides evaluation and treatment services for children with suspected developmental delays and disorders such as autism spectrum and ADHD as well as applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy. With an interdisciplinary approach to early identification and intervention for neurodevelopmental concerns, our professionals work collaboratively with families to support the unique needs of each child. Siskin Children's Institute is proud to partner with Family Voices of Tennessee and the TN Disability Coalition to serve as the local hub for families in search of resources, support, and guidance as they care for children with special healthcare needs, chronic illnesses, or disabilities.


For more information please contact Steffanie Altman at


If a member of the community has questions related to the information below and/or the inclusion work being done by the Jewish Federation and its partners through the Inclusion Committee, please contact Deborah Oleshansky.