I’ve loved working at the RAC these past six months and one of the highlights of my time at the RAC so far has been our L’Taken social justice seminars for high school students, where nearly 300 Reform Jewish teens come to Washington, D.C. for a weekend to learn about social justice, lobby on Capitol Hill and get inspiration to be lifelong Jewish advocates. Now, when I first applied for this job, I wasn’t particularly excited about L’Taken. While the idea of engaging high school students on important social justice issues sounded appealing, I thought back to how my classmates behaved in high school. Fortunately, it turned out I was wrong and running six L’Takens the past three months has reminded me why I love working for the RAC so much.
This past weekend, four of the other legislative assistants and I were in Selma for the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the March to Montgomery. We had planned our trips months prior to the event, and although I was excited to be a part of this important milestone, I became more and more nervous as the Jubilee approached. With each passing day, I continued to read about the barriers to marriage equality in Alabama, and although I clearly had no intention of getting married while in Alabama, it reminded me that Alabama has the lowest support for marriage equality out of all fifty states and lacks non-discrimination protections for LGBT individuals. I would be leaving the queer-friendly bubble of Washington, D.C. for a state where I could not as easily assume people’s support for my rights. It was ironic that I would be going to a state to mark a landmark moment in civil rights history while that same state was currently in the throes of resisting equality for LGBT people.
By Shelley Christensen
“For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in its produce. But in the seventh year, the land shall have a complete rest, a Sabbath to the Lord; you shall not sow your field, you shall not prune your vineyard, nor shall you reap the aftergrowth of your harvest . . . And [the produce of] the Sabbath of the land shall be yours to eat for you, for your male and female servants, and for your hired worker and resident who live with you . . . (Leviticus 25:3–6)
Having completed six consecutive years of observing Jewish Disability Awareness Months (2009-2015), we now approach the shmita year. In ancient times, shmita meant the land was rested and debts were retired, but what might this practice mean in our time? And what are the indications for our work and mission to suffuse our Jewish culture with the spirit of inclusion throughout the year? Read more…
One of the first things I learned about as the legislative assistant working on disability rights was that February is Jewish Disability Awareness Month (JDAM) and that the RAC and the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) (as the co-chairs of the Jewish Disability Network, a coalition of over two dozen Jewish organizations advocating for disability rights) plan an annual Jewish Disability Advocacy Day (JDAD) to coincide with JDAM. However, none of the stories I heard about JDAD nor the planning of it could prepare me for the excitement of the day itself: an the amazing opportunity to see 90 Jews from across the U.S. converge on Capitol Hill to advocate for disability rights on Wednesday.
As we wrap up Jewish Disability Advocacy Month, we think also of people with disabilities in other countries. Worldwide, 650 million people live with disabilities, more than twice the population of the United States. In Israel, there are over a million children and adults of working age who live with disabilities, according to a report by the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute. About one out of every five Jewish Israelis lives with a disability, and about one of four Arab Israelis. Read more…
By Lisa Friedman
About a year ago I was interviewed for a podcast about inclusive education by The Inclusive Class. While typically geared toward a secular audience, our topic for this episode was inclusion in faith-based schools. You can find the full podcast here.
I hope that this discussion can help you move your journey forward. I am excited that I will again be a guest, along with Torrie Dunlap of Kids Included Together, on February 24.
For those who are struggling to make their place of worship more inclusive:
Unemployment among Americans with disabilities inched up with the start of the New Year, the U.S. Labor Department said Friday, February 6. The jobless rate for people with disabilities was 11.9 percent in January, up from 11.2 percent in December. Overall unemployment rose slightly as well, to 5.7 percent.
Employment remains the unfulfilled promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While the ADA mandates equal access to employment for people with disabilities, two-thirds of Americans with disabilities are still unemployed or underemployed, a number that has not changed since the ADA’s passage in 1990.
Imagine suffering a devastating injury and becoming paralyzed from the waist down. Now imagine that you provide the primary source of income for your family and that you can no longer go to work because of your injury. What will you do?