Meet the Accessibility Roundtable: Noa Gurvis

Meet the Accessibility Roundtable: In this series, we’ll be getting to know the team members that make up this cross-departmental working group to improve OneTable’s accessibility (learn more about the Accessibility Roundtable here). Join Naomi (they/them), Miami Field Manager, and Noa (she/her), Executive Assistant, in conversation about Noa’s story, why she joined the roundtable, and what she loves about this work.

What does accessibility mean to you?

The first thing that I think of is that cartoon of people trying to watch a baseball game over a fence. The cartoon demonstrates equality (providing the same resources to everyone) vs. equity (providing different resources to each person based on their needs). Equity is great, and is something I have valued for a long time. Accessibility is taking it one step further and removing the fence; removing barriers so that different people can share experiences together in an inclusive environment.

How does accessibility strengthen our OneTable community?

There is no downside to diversity. To me, one of the guiding principles behind Judaism is welcoming – and, it’s a OneTable core value as well. Opening up your home and resources to anyone who might need it is inherently Jewish. I grew up celebrating Shabbat every week with my family, and as far back as I can remember, my parents have always had guests join us around the table. My two older sisters and I all knew that our friends – Jewish and non-Jewish alike – had an open invitation to a seat at Shabbat dinner. Having this foundation of welcoming woven into my life from a young age, has taught me the importance of sharing my culture with everyone; watching my parents host showed me how to include others in my experiences in thoughtful ways.

Putting in the work to make OneTable accessible to everyone is the next step in creating a community where everyone feels safe and welcome. The sharing of ideas and values has created what OneTable is, and it is necessary to keep doing so in this ever-changing landscape.

What inspired you to join the Accessibility Roundtable? Do you have a personal connection to this work?

Since I joined OneTable, I have discovered it to be the safest, kindest, and most caring work environment that I have ever been a part of. Now that I have been here for several months, I want to help provide that feeling for everyone who connects with OneTable internally and externally – board members, participants, partners, and staff. My vision is for anyone who interacts with OneTable to have a similar experience to the one I am having.

Getting involved in the Accessibility Roundtable is about sharing the barriers that I encounter, and my perspective on overcoming them. I have social anxiety, and I have a hard time meeting new people and committing to new experiences. Part of me loves the idea of attending a Shabbat dinner hosted by someone I don’t know, surrounded by people that I haven’t met before, but another part of me is very apprehensive of that situation. I’m excited to be involved in conversation about how OneTable Shabbat dinners can be accessible for people like me. 

What’s something you’re excited to learn more about?

I sometimes struggle to think outside the box and get outside of my own mindset. I am ready and excited to learn from folks who think differently than me and might have tools and tips to encourage me to get outside of my head. Being part of the roundtable is an opportunity for me to learn about the barriers that people who are different from me experience. What kinds of solutions might help them, and how does that look different from what helps me?

In what ways does the work of your specific department need to be mindful of accessibility needs?

A majority of my work as an Executive Assistant is communication, and that requires a lot of mindfulness and the ability to adapt. In a way, I get to be a chameleon and shift how I operate to accommodate various communication styles. When I joined OneTable and had my one-on-one meetings with each staff member, it was an opportunity to practice that mindfulness and learn about their work styles – who prefers to be reached by text versus slack, for example. With any task that comes my way, I always ask: what can I do to be helpful to you? Everyone answers that question differently according to their accessibility needs, and my job is to accommodate that.

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