Jewish Disability Advocates Convene on Capitol Hill for Day of Action

February 3, 2020

Jewish Disability Advocates Convene on Capitol Hill for Day of Action

Former Senators Bob Dole (R-KS) and Tom Harkin (D-IA), and current Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) receiving awards for legislative advances in disability awareness.

Washington, D.C. – On Tuesday, February 4, more than 275 people living with disabilities and their allies will arrive on Capitol Hill for the 10th annual Jewish Disability Advocacy Day (JDAD). Participants from Jewish Federations, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and other Jewish organizations across the United States will urge Congress to support two pieces of legislation: the ABLE Age Adjustment Act, which will help people with disabilities live more independently, without fear of bankruptcy due to medical costs and the Isaiah Baker; and Margie Harris-Austin Act, which will support individuals with disabilities during hospitalizations, preventing trauma and improving health outcomes.

The program will begin at 9:00 a.m. in Rayburn 2043. A livestream of the event can be accessed by visiting on Tuesday morning.

“These bills would ensure that more than 6 million Americans can achieve financial stability and access to essential disability-related health services as well as alleviate the stress and trauma that many individuals with disabilities so often experience as a result of hospitalization,” said Mark Wilf, chair of the Board of Trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America. “We strongly urge Congress to pass the ABLE Age Adjustment Act and the Isaiah Baker and Margie Harris-Austin Act so that people with disabilities can have full and productive lives.”

Sponsored by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, JDAD is held as part of the larger Jewish Disabilities Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month, marked annually in February.

“JDAD is a meaningful opportunity for the Jewish community to build power for disability rights, a value rooted in one of the most sacred teachings in scripture: ‘For my house shall be a house of prayer for all people,’” (Isaiah 56:5) said Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. “While the United States has made significant progress in recent decades for people living with disabilities, the bills we are asking Congress to pass would remove barriers for millions to participate more fully in all aspects of society.”

To commemorate the milestone 10th anniversary of JDAD – as well as the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and 45th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – the program will highlight the work of leaders in the disability advocacy space.

Tuesday’s program will start off with a traditional d’var torah by Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D., the President of Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and the first woman rabbi to head a Jewish seminary and congregational union. Additionally, awards will be presented to Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), former Senator Bob Dole (R-KS), former Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), and disability rights activist Judy Heumann for their contributions to the field. 

The program will also include two panel discussions. The first, 2020: A Milestone Year for Disability Rights – Accomplishments and Remaining Challenges, will be moderated by Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center. The second, Effective Advocacy: A Conversation, will be moderated by Eric D. Fingerhut, President and CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America. Panel members include:

  • Julie Hocker, Commissioner of the Administration on Disabilities, Administration for Community Living
  • Julia Bascom, Executive Director, Autistic Self Advocacy Network
  • Liz Weintraub, Senior Advocacy Specialist, Association of University Centers on Disabilities
  • Maria Town, President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities
  • Representatives from Jewish Family Service of Houston and Jewish Family and Children's Service of Greater Philadelphia

Members of Congress will join the program to further discuss the power of advocacy.

Media are welcome to attend and are asked to RSVP to Sarah Garfinkel at or Rebecca Dinar at


About The Jewish Federations: The Jewish Federations, collectively among the top 10 charities on the continent, represents 146 Jewish Federations and 300 members of the Network communities to protect and enhance the well-being of Jews worldwide through the values of tikkun olam (repairing the world), tzedakah (charity and social justice) and Torah (Jewish learning).

About The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism: The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose nearly 850 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Visit for more.