Statement of Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism on President Bush’s New Freedom Initiative
WASHINGTON, DC, February 2, 2001- Reacting to the introduction of President Bush's New Freedom Initiative, which outlines the new Administration's plans for "tearing down the barriers to equality" facing Americans with disabilities, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
We commend President Bush for highlighting the problems faced by people with disabilities, and for outlining concrete solutions to these problems in his New Freedom Initiative. President Bush's plan renews our government's commitment to fulfilling the promise of full equality for the over 54 million Americans with disabilities, and to continuing the legacy of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. We have not yet made good on this promise, as people with disabilities still lag behind the national average in their educational level, employment level, income, technology access, homeownership, and participation in voting.
We have a responsibility to help facilitate the full participation of individuals with disabilities in public and religious life. Judaism teaches, "You shall not insult the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind"(Leviticus 19:14). The President's New Freedom Initiative proposes to increase access to technology, expand educational opportunity, facilitate integration into the workforce, and promote greater access to community life for people with disabilities. These proposals are not mere words: they are backed by specific programs designed to attack pervasive problems of access and opportunity, and they are important steps toward removing the insults and stumbling blocks that still hinder the disabled among us.
The President's initiative sends a powerful message about the Administration's commitment to equal opportunity for Americans with disabilities. We are heartened by the bipartisan support that the President's plan has already garnered. We look forward to the introduction of bills embodying the ideas of the New Freedom Initiative, and urge Congress to follow President Bush's lead in enacting them into law.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis.