Jewish Organizations' Letter to 118th Congress for Jewish Disability Advocacy Day 2024

February 28, 2024, WASHINGTON - In celebration of Jewish Disability Advocacy Day 2024, the Union for Reform Judaism, Jewish Federations of North America, Network of Jewish Human Services Agencies, and 107 additional national, state, and local Jewish organizations sent the following letter to the 118th Congress:

Dear Members of the 118th Congress,

Representing the collective voice of 110 undersigned Jewish national, state, and local organizations, we thank you for the bipartisan strides achieved so far in the 118th Congress for people with disabilities. As the second session of the 118th Congress begins, we urge you to continue to prioritize policies that promote inclusion and accessibility and empower people with disabilities to lead lives of greater independence and economic stability.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 61 million adults in the United States -- one in four -- have a disability. Every February, the Jewish community comes together for Jewish Disability Advocacy Day (JDAD) to raise awareness and foster acceptance and inclusion of people with disabilities and mental health conditions - and to advocate for policies that promote independence and inclusion. Jewish text commands us, "You shall not insult the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind" (Leviticus 19:14) and "Do not separate yourself from the community" (Pirkei Avot 2:5). Stumbling blocks come in many forms: unequal access or subpar educational and employment opportunities, lack of accessible housing and transportation, inability to access health care, reduced opportunities for community involvement and independent living, discrimination, and stigma. These teachings remind us that there is still much work to be done to reach full inclusion for all people in our society.

We are grateful for Congress' support of prior JDAD priorities, including passing the ABLE Age Adjustment Act, extending the Medicaid Money Follows the Person program, and increasing funding for the Social Security Administration to improve timely processing of disability benefit claims. Additionally, we thank you for legislation already introduced in this Congress, including the IDEA Full Funding Act and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Savings Penalty Elimination Act. We now urge you to continue this progress by prioritizing:

Promoting Opportunities for Economic Independence

People with disabilities are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as those without disabilities due to educational and employment opportunities that significantly limit their earning potential, while outdated safety net policies trap many people with disabilities in poverty. Further, People of Color, particularly African Americans, are more likely to have a disability and the difficulties they experience in living with a disability are compounded by higher rates of economic insecurity due to disparities in economic opportunity. We urge you to promote bipartisan opportunities for economic independence by supporting the SSI Savings Penalty Elimination Act that would raise the asset limit for the 7.6 million individuals on SSI for the first time in 34 years and index these limits to inflation moving forward. The bill would ensure that low-income people with disabilities and older adults are able to retain more in savings for emergencies without jeopardizing their benefits.

Increasing Opportunities to Live Independently in the Community

To increase opportunities for individuals with disabilities to live in the community, rather than in costly institutions, we urge you to expand upon existing programs that promote the ability of people with disabilities to live more independently with appropriate support, including investing in additional resources and training for direct care workers.

Protecting and Advancing Accessibility and Inclusion

In the three decades since enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the landmark civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life has proven to be a vital tool in removing barriers and improving access to employment, school, transportation, community spaces, and more, but there is much left to be done. We look to our elected officials to protect the ADA in all public spaces and enact further legislation that will break down the remaining barriers to promote full, equitable access.

Removing Educational Barriers for Children with Disabilities

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) established that all children with disabilities have a federally protected right to a free, appropriate public education tailored to their individual needs in the least restrictive environment possible. Even as schools are required to fulfill the IDEA mandate, special education programs remain severely underfunded. We urge Congress to fulfill its original promise to children with disabilities and fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Inspired by our tradition, we join across the Jewish community on JDAD to ask that the 118th Congress commit to passing bipartisan legislation that addresses the needs of people with disabilities, empowering them to achieve greater economic security and independence. Thank you for your consideration.


Union for Reform Judaism

Jewish Federations of North America

Network of Jewish Human Services Agencies

National Organizations
Accessibility Accelerator
American Conference of Cantors
B'nai B'rith International
Bend the Arc: Jewish Action
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Israel ParaSport Center
J Street
Jewish Changemakers Fellowship
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Jewish Deaf Resource Center
jGirls+ Magazine
National Council of Jewish Women
National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities
JLA Trust & Services
Jofa - Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance
MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger
Men of Reform Judaism
National Association for Temple Administration (NATA)
Rabbinical Assembly
Ramah Camping Movement
Reconstructing Judaism
The Shalom Center
Tivnu: Building Justice
Women of Reform Judaism

State and Local Organizations
Adath Israel, Merion Station, PA
Baltimore Jewish Council, Baltimore, Maryland
Bornblum Jewish Community School, Memphis, TN
Carolina Jews for Justice
Center for Jewish Philanthropy of Greater Phoenix, Arizona
Chabad Chayil, Miami, FL
Champaign-Urbana Jewish Federation, Champaign, IL
CJE SeniorLife; Chicago, IL
Congregation Beth Chaim, Princeton Junction, NJ
Congregation Or Ami, Calabasas, CA
Congregation Shalom of San Antonio, Texas
Damon Brooks and Associates
ETTA Los Angeles, CA
Ferd & Gladys Alpert Jewish Family Service
Friends of AKIM USA, NY, NY
Friendship Circle of Virginia
Gesher Disability Resources, Scottsdale, AZ
IKAR, Los Angeles, CA
Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council
JCRC of the Jewish Federation of San Antonio
Jewish Association for Residential Care (JARC Florida)
Jewish Community Relations Council of Broward County
Jewish Community Relations Council of Broward County, Davie FL
Jewish Family & Child Service, Portland, Oregon
Jewish Family & Children's Service of Greater Boston
Jewish Family Service Association of Cleveland (Cleveland, OH)
Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas
Jewish Family Service of Greater New Orleans
Jewish Family Service of the Lehigh Valley Allentown, PA
Jewish Federation & Foundation of Northeast Florida
Jewish Federation of Cincinnati | Cincinnati, Ohio
Jewish Federation of Detroit (Bloomfield Hills, Michigan)
Jewish Federation of Eastern CT
Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, MI)
Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, Dallas TX
Jewish Federation of Greater Houston
Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ
Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh
Jewish Federation of Greater Portland
Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo
Jewish Federation of Northeastern NY
Jewish Federation of Ocean County (NJ)
Jewish Federation of Peoria
Jewish Federation of Reading/Berks
Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, Cherry Hill, NJ
Jewish Federation of Springfield, IL
Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass - Lexington, KY
Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley
Jewish Federation of West-Central New Jersey
Jewish Social Service Agency - Metro DC
Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Chicago
JFCS of Greater Philadelphia, PA
Judith Creed Horizons for Achieving Independence, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
JVS Careers, Cincinnati, OH
Keshet (Chicago)
Libenu, Chicago, IL a project of NCJW Cleveland, Ohio
Maagalim Community Circles West Hills, Ca.
Makom Shelanu Congregation, Ft. Worth, TX
Mid-Kansas Jewish Federation
Milestones Autism Resources, Cleveland, OH
Mishkan Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
North Louisiana Jewish Federation (Shreveport and Monroe, Louisiana)
Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County
Peninsula Temple Sholom, Burlingame, CA
Plaza Jewish Community Chapel, New York, New York
San Antonio Jewish Senior Services (SAJSS), San Antonio, Texas
Sasone, Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City
Temple B'rith Kodesh, Rochester, NY
The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore
The Branch, Pittsburgh, PA
the Den Collective, Metro DC Area
UJA-Federation of New York
Youngstown Area Jewish Federation, Youngstown, OH