Jewish tradition teaches us of our obligation to ensure equal access for all people and to help facilitate the full participation of individuals with disabilities in religious and public life. We are taught “Do not separate yourself from the community” (Pirkei Avot 2:5). Therefore, we must prevent anyone from being separated from the community against their will.
In Leviticus 19:14, we are taught, “You shall not insult the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind.” Stumbling blocks come in many forms, from less-than-accessible buildings, Shabbat services, prayer books, and web pages to health care that is harder to access or isn’t sufficient for people with disabilities. We are obligated to remove these stumbling blocks; this is why Judaism cares so deeply about accessibility and advocating for the rights of people with disabilities.
In the first chapter of Genesis, we read that each of us is created in the image of God. These verses influence Reform Judaism’s commitment to creating Jewish communities that are welcoming and accessible to all. From our advocacy for disability rights to our work to create communities of belonging for people with disabilities and their families in Jewish life, Reform Judaism strives to make each congregation a “house of prayer for all people” (Isaiah 56:5).
Ensuring that people with disabilities are affirmed and can participate fully in their communities has long been a priority of Reform Jewish advocacy. The Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism have all passed numerous resolutions on disabilities. Every February, our Reform Jewish community joins Jews worldwide in observance of Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month.