February is Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance & Inclusion Month (JDAIM), a unified effort among Jewish organizations worldwide to raise awareness and foster acceptance and inclusion of people with disabilities and mental health conditions and those who love them.

Now in its 13th year, JDAIM brings together organizations across Montreal for an array of free events including a virtual vernissage, exercise programs, educational opportunities, concerts, museum tours and much more.

The Cummings Centre, serving the 50 plus community, includes participants who live with a range of health and mobility challenges such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and mental illness. To learn more about what inclusion means, Cummings members Rémi Collard and Gale Ostroff each shared the experience of their health journey and how the community provides a space for their needs.

Rémi Collard was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease almost two years ago and quickly came to terms with the aspects of his life that would shift with this diagnosis. An active person, playing tennis, working as a financial planner and an oboist, Rémi came to see how Parkinson’s disease would impact his identity and role in the communities he has been a part of throughout his adult life.

Rémi participates in a range of programs at Cummings Centre including twice weekly boxing, vocal training and Strength & Flexibility. He finds support and inclusion across these programs as well as within the community of Parkinson’s Quebec.

Rémi spoke about inclusion within the Boxing and Vocal Training Program offered at Cummings. “The course thinks of how we function with the disease,” he said, noting that Parkinson’s is a disease that has no cure and the medications people take to manage the symptoms of the disease come with complications.  “It doesn’t matter where you are with the disease, people experience it very differently.”

Rémi said there are people of all ages – much older and much younger than him in the groups he belongs to, and each person has a different encounter with Parkinson’s. Community and belonging become important parts of the health journey when the diagnosis comes with such a wide reach.

Gale Ostroff has worked to manage her mental illness throughout her life and has been fortunate to have people to turn to and avenues to work through difficult times.  Creating art has always been one of these avenues.  She is grateful to be able to share her work as part of a digital vernissage highlighting the strength and resiliency people demonstrate when faced with mental illness.

Gale created two pieces that are being shared in the JDAIM vernissage From Strength to Strength. “They’re large drawings,” she says. “They focus on my feelings, my fear and my perspective as someone who has lived with mental health issues for their whole life.  Art to me is the most freeing.  You are not invisible to yourself.  It’s an opening for you that allows for a lot of pleasure and health renewal.”

Gale’s pieces are a response to the pandemic as well as the grief she has experienced after loosing her husband right before the pandemic started. “I feel very honoured to be in this place to talk about my feelings and to have this opportunity to share my art and highlight the importance of inclusion and good health for JDAIM,” she added.

To learn more and sign up for programs visit cummingscentre.org/jdaim  or federationcja.org/en/inclusion/jdaim or call 514-343-3510.


Photo of Rémi Collard (2019). https://www.neomedia.com/vaudreuil-soulanges/actualites/culturel/363003/la-mez-a-felix-accueille-judy-hong-et-remi-collard

The Cummings Centre’s mission is to empower and enhance the quality of life of adults age 50 and over by providing dynamic and innovative programs, social services, and volunteer opportunities in a vibrant, respectful, inclusive and compassionate environment. Building on its Jewish heritage, Cummings embraces people from all ethnic, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.

As the hub of Montreal’s 50+ community, the Centre touches the lives of 10,000 people on an annual basis. In addition to its main campus at 5700 Westbury Avenue in Montreal, programs are offered at several off-site locations including the West Island, Cote Saint-Luc, St.LaurentWestmountChomedey and Florida.

For more information, please contact us by phone at 514-343-3510, online at www.cummingscentre.org or in person at 5700 Westbury Avenue.