In the U.S. and Canada more than 67 million people have some form of disability. According to the 2019 American Community Survey, 4.3 percent of children in the US have a physical, mental, and/or emotional disability, and an estimated 2.6 million households have at least one child in the home with a 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 Eternal, 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 Eternal?'"(Exodus 4:10-11)
Reform Judaism Resolutions on Disability Rights
Learn more about the position of the Reform Movement on these key issues, and read the formal resolutions by the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
Hineinu: Here We Are
More can and must be done to build a more inclusive Jewish community. Created with our partner organizations, Hineinu is a guide to breaking down barriers and creating inclusive communities.
5 Ways to Be an Ally to People with Disabilities
As we highlight disability inclusion and work toward disability inclusion in our Jewish communities all year long, here are just a few ways to be an individual ally to people with disabilities.
URJ Audacious Hospitality Resources
Find resources, including our congregational toolkit, created by the URJ Audacious Hospitality team to help you make your community more equitable and inclusive.
Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month
What is Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month?
Established in 2009, JDAIM is a unified initiative to raise disability awareness and support efforts to foster inclusion in Jewish communities worldwide.
18 Ways Congregations Can Observe Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month
JDAIM’s founder explains why our congregations and communities should participate in Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month and suggestions for doing so.
Download the Latest Inclusion Guide
Shelly Christensen of Inclusion Innovations, founder of Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month, shares an annual JDAIM recent inclusion guide and other materials.
Join us to launch Jewish Disability Advocacy Day 2023!
Celebrating the 32nd Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act
Join us for virtual Jewish Disability Advocacy Day 2022
Related Press Releases
Jewish Organizations' Letter to 118th Congress for Jewish Disability Advocacy Day 2023
Jewish Disability Advocates Convene on Capitol Hill for Day of Action
Reform Jewish Movement Decries House Passage of ADA Education and Reform Act
Disability Inclusion and Jewish Values
Jewish Values and Disability Rights
What Does the Torah Say about People with Disabilities?
We are taught “Do not separate yourself from the community” (Pirke Avot 2:5); accordingly, we must prevent anyone from being separated from the community against their will.
Engage Your Congregation
- Jewish Disability Advocacy Day: During this one-day event in Washington, D.C., hundreds of Jews with disabilities and their allies gather to learn about current disability rights policy, raise awareness on disability inclusion, and advocate for relevant legislative priorities on Capitol Hill.
- Audacious Hospitality: The Union for Reform Judaism's Audacious Hospitality initiative provides toolkits, educational resources, and more to help you make your spaces more inclusive.
- 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.
- Jewish Disability Advocacy, Awareness, and Inclusion Month (JDAIM): Every February, North American communities from every major Jewish stream recognize Jewish Disability Advocacy, Awareness, and Inclusion Month, a unified initiative to raise disability awareness and support efforts to foster inclusion in Jewish communities worldwide.
- 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.
Every Voice, Every Vote
The Reform Jewish Movement’s 2022 Every Voice, Every Vote Campaign is a nonpartisan effort, grounded in our Jewish values and commitment to racial justice, to strengthen our democracy by encouraging and protecting voter participation.
Jewish Federations of North America
The RAC is proud to partner with the Jewish Federations of North America on disability rights policy and organize Jewish Disability Advocacy Day.
Interfaith Disability Advocacy Collaborative (IDAC)
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.