In the U.S. and Canada more than 60 million people have some form of disability. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, one in 12 children in the U.S. has a disability; that means 5.2 million American children have a mental or physical disability. With the passage momentous civil rights legislation, the U.S. and Canada have made significant progress in recent decades, but in both countries people with disabilities still lag behind national averages in education completed, employment rates, income, technology access, homeownership, and voter participation. As Americans, Canadians, and members of the Jewish community we must continue our support for disability rights by educating our communities, ensuring accessibility in our synagogues and services, supporting disability rights legislation, and demanding enforcement of existing laws.
Why Should Jews Care
- Jewish tradition teaches us of our obligation to ensure equal access for all people and to help facilitate the full participation of individuals with disabilities in religious and public life. In Leviticus 19:14 we are commanded, "You shall not insult the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind." Stumbling blocks come in many forms, unequal access or subpar educational and employment opportunities, lack of accessible housing and transportation, and discrimination and exclusion in both Jewish and secular spaces.
- Further, in Pirkei Avot 2:5 we are taught "Do not separate yourself from the community.” However, due to persistent systemic barriers to education, transportation, technology, health care, community involvement, and independent living, many people living with disabilities are consistently alienated from the community against their will. These teachings remind us that there is still much work to be done to reach full inclusion for all people in our society.
- Other Jewish texts on disability issues include: "For my house shall be a house of prayer for all people." (Isaiah 56:5)
- "But Moses said to the Lord, 'Please, O Lord, I have never been a man of words, either in times past or now that You have spoken to Your servant; I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.' And the Lord said to him, 'Who gives man speech? Who makes him dumb or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?'"(Exodus 4:10-11)
Passed in 2014, the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act allowed people with disabilities up to age 26 and their families to establish tax-advantaged savings and investment plans called ABLE Accounts. Although the ABLE Act continues to provide an important measure of financial security to people with disabilities, anyone who acquires a disability after they turn 26 is ineligible to create an ABLE account. Urge your members of Congress to cosponsor the ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 651/H.R. 1814) to make the ABLE program available to people who become disabled prior to age 46 and ensure the ABLE program’s long-term viability.
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Engage Your Congregation
- Attend Jewish Disability Advocacy Day (JDAD). Jewish Disability Advocacy Day is a one-day event in Washington, DC for hundreds of Jews with disabilities and their allies to learn about current disability rights policy, raise awareness on disability inclusion, and advocate for relevant legislative priorities on Capitol Hill.
- Get involved with the URJ’s Audacious Hospitality initiative to access toolkits and educational resources to make your spaces more inclusive.
- Disabilities Inclusion Learning Center: Visit our online learning center, developed by the URJ in partnership with the Ruderman Family Foundation, the site features engaging and impactful skill building study sessions, videos and other resources provided by leading disabilities inclusion experts on creating accessible learning, vocational, social, worship and communal experiences for people of all ages.
- Hineinu: A Jewish Guide to Inclusion: The Hineinu guide is an innovative collaboration of disability professionals, activists, and policy experts from the Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist and Reform Jewish Movements designed to increase disability inclusion in our synagogues for people of all abilities.
- Every February, North American communities from every major Jewish stream recognize Jewish Disability Advocacy, Awareness, and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), a unified initiative to raise disability awareness and support efforts to foster inclusion in Jewish communities worldwide.
What Our Partners Are Doing
The RAC is proud to be on the Steering Committee of the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Collaborative, a group of more than two dozen faith-based organizations working to advance disability rights and inclusion.