Jewish Disability Awareness Month is Coming!
Rabbi Lynne Landsberg is Chair of the Central Conference of American Rabbis‘ Ad Hoc Committee on Disability Awareness & Inclusion and Senior Advisor on Disability Issues at the RAC. This post is adapted from her article in the November/December 2009 CCAR Bulletin.
February 2010 is the second annual Jewish Disability Awareness Month. During October, the United States observed National Disability Employment Awareness Month, but because October is too close to the High Holy Days for Jewish programming, all branches of Judaism – Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Reconstructionist, and most if not all Jewish organizations and agencies – selected February as Jewish Disability Awareness Month.
This February, local synagogues, organizational chapters and federations are observing Jewish Disability Awareness Month with special programming to educate their members about people with all kinds of disabilities – physical, intellectual, psychological and more.
Jews with disabilities are a distinct segment of our community whom we are choosing not to serve. I think we all understand that serving this community means more than a ramp to the front door. We shut Jews out by not altering other physical barriers such as stairs to the bima and more. We shut Jews out by continuing non-inclusive programming and religious education. We shut Jews out by maintaining attitudes of discomfort and disdain. And when we do provide accommodations, we shut Jews out by not advertising our accommodations. We must use the recognizable blue international symbol of access on every notice, bulletin, website and every other form of advertisement.
We Jews would never consciously do it, but are we unknowingly putting a stumbling block before the blind?
Let us use February 2010, Jewish Disability Awareness Month, in our efforts to become truly welcoming congregations. Together, let us break down the physical, communicative and attitudinal barriers wherever they are. We must come together as Jews and help all Americans recognize that people with disabilities are people first — people with unlimited potential who are not to be defined by their disabilities.
Please send any information about events you plan to hold or have already held to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For further programming ideas, please visit the RAC’s Jewish Disability Awareness Month page for links to numerous websites devoted to disability programming and education.