It’s that time of year! The newest class of Eisendrath Legislative Assistants arrived at the RAC two weeks ago, and jumped right into the Washington, D.C. world of politics, advocacy and social justice. We are so looking forward to what they will do and accomplish for tikkun olam this year. Clockwise from the top left: Read more…
by Curtis Ramsey-Lucas
Twenty-five years ago, on July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA and the subsequent ADA Amendments Act, signed in 2008 by President George W. Bush, expanded opportunities for Americans with disabilities by reducing barriers and changing perceptions. As a result, our society is more open and accessible to people with disabilities today than it was just a generation ago.
On July 26, the United States will mark the 25 year anniversary of the signing of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA was a landmark piece of disability rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for people with disabilities. It specifically prohibits discrimination in employment, public accommodations and public transportation, as well as discrimination by all local and state public entities. Twenty five years later, the ADA remains one of the most important pieces of disability rights legislation in the U.S. and an example to countries worldwide working towards advancing disability rights.
To mark this historic anniversary, the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition, a project of the American Association of People with Disabilities, will be hosting an interfaith event, From Access to Belonging: An Interfaith Service Celebrating the Progress and Promise of the ADA on Sunday July 26 from 3:00 – 5:00 PM. The service will be held at First Trinity Lutheran Church at 309 E Street NW in Washington, DC. The Service will be wheelchair accessible and sign language interpreted.
At the event, Rabbi Lynne Landsberg, the RAC’s Senior Advisor on Disability Rights will be honored with the inaugural Thornburgh Family Award in recognition of her years of service on behalf of people with disabilities. The award is named after U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, who helped negotiate the ADA with Congress, and Ginny Thornburgh, a long-time advocate for people with disabilities nationally and globally who specializes in inclusion in religious communities. The Thornburgh Family Award recognizes a religious leader who exemplifies the spirit of the ADA.
Rabbi Landsberg has been a leading voice on disability rights in the nation’s Capital and throughout the country for decades. First, in her role as Associate Director of the RAC, Rabbi Landsberg lobbied for the passage of the ADA twenty-five years ago. Then, after surviving a Traumatic Brain Injury in 1999, Lynne returned to the RAC as the Senior Advisor on Disability Rights in order to strengthen the Reform Movement’s advocacy for the civil and human rights of people with disabilities in order to ensure all people have equal access to religious and civic life.
In her role as the Senior Advisor on Disability Rights at the RAC, Lynne formed and co-chaired the Jewish Disability Network (JDN), a coalition of over two dozen Jewish organizations dedicated to disability rights and inclusion, and co-founded Hineinu, a historic and innovative collaboration of the Reform, Orthodox, Reconstructionist and Conservative Jewish Movements and Chabad dedicated to furthering disability inclusion in Jewish life. Rabbi Landsberg and the JDN played a leading role in advocating for the passage of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. She serves on the steering committee of the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition and continues to be a leading voice in DC and around the country for disability rights and inclusion.
Earlier this month, the UN held its Eighth Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in April 2006, is based on the ideals of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and is intended to empower persons with disabilities to be independent and productive. CRPD represents an international effort to bring the world closer to achieving the goals of equality, opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities.
Last week, I had the opportunity to travel to the Orthodox Union for the biannual meeting of Hineinu representatives. Hineinu (“Here we are” in Hebrew) is an innovative collaboration of the disability professionals from each Jewish denomination that was launched in 2013. Consisting originally of the Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist and Reform Jewish Movements, and now Chabad, Hineinu representatives share resources, support and direction in order to increase disability inclusion in our synagogues.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness of mental illnesses and the importance of mental wellness for all. In our own country, an estimated 18.6 percent or 43.7 million Americans live with mental illnesses, and 4.1% or 9.6 million U.S. adults have a serious mental illness. Whether or not we have personally experienced a mental illness, no family or community is immune.
Today, at the opening day of the Consultation on Conscience, we opened our programming with a short plenary followed by two rich and engaging workshop blocks. Participants had the opportunity to learn about the importance of national paid sick days legislation from Vicki Shabo of the National Partnership for Women and Families; to learn about the moral call to end climate change from Rabbi Larry Troster of GreenFaith; to delve into how create inclusive communities for people with disabilities; to hear from Rabbi Joel Mosbacher on his work to prevent the greater scourge of gun violence prevention; just to name a few of the wonderful workshops! Read more…