As we kick off 2024, the Religious Action Center (RAC) is excited to partner with the Jewish Federations of North America and the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies to host our annual Jewish Disability Advocacy Day (JDAD) on Wednesday, February 28 at 1pm-2:30pm EST on Zoom. Register for JDAD 2024: Ensuring We All Flourish!
After welcoming hundreds to JDAD last year, we have decided to continue with the virtual format to keep JDAD accessible to as many people as possible. Jews with disabilities and their allies will join together to learn from featured members of Congress and disability advocates and discuss important upcoming legislation and events. The event will conclude with an opportunity to contact Congress to show Jewish communities' support for current legislation supporting people with disabilities. Our goal is to encourage Congress to prioritize the empowerment of individuals with disabilities by dismantling obstacles and enhancing opportunities, fostering greater independence and economic well-being. JDAD takes place within the context of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM). Throughout February, the North American Jewish community observes JDAIM as a time to assess our community, reflecting on both our achievements and areas where improvement is needed in fostering openness and inclusivity for members with disabilities.
At JDAD 2024, we will advocate for the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Penalty Savings Elimination Act (S.2767 & H.R.5408). The SSI Savings Penalty Elimination Act, introduced by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1) and Brian Higgins (D-NY-26), proposes significant changes to current SSI. The act aims to raise the asset limit for individuals from $2,000 to $10,000 and for couples from $3,000 to $20,000, indexing these limits to inflation for future adjustments. Currently, the stagnant asset limits, set 34 years ago, fail to reflect the increased cost of living, causing challenges for individuals with disabilities who qualify for SSI. The bill seeks to ensure that individuals can save for necessary expenses without risking the reduction or denial of SSI payments. By linking asset limit increases to economic data and removing Congress from the decision-making process, the legislation aims to modernize the SSI program, providing predictability and assistance to some of the nation's most economically vulnerable citizens amidst rising costs and decades-long neglect of these limits.
The Reform Movement is dedicated to the fundamental pursuit of a world characterized by compassion, justice, and wholeness, and we are proud to work to advance the rights of individuals living with disabilities. Jewish tradition is explicit about the importance of creating a world that is accessible for all people. Leviticus teaches us, "You shall not insult the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind" (Leviticus 19:14). Yet many individuals face stumbling blocks and barriers in various forms, including unequal access to or subpar education and employment opportunities, lack of accessible housing and transportation, and discrimination and exclusion in both Jewish and secular spaces. It is important for policymakers to play a role in breaking down structural barriers that hinder the security and opportunities available to people with disabilities.