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” (Pirke Avot 2:5); accordingly, we must prevent anyone from being separated from the community against their will.
In Leviticus, chapter 19, verses 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 for the rights of people with disabilities.
And 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 disability rights and to creating Jewish communities that are welcoming and accessible to all. From our work on behalf of disability rights to groundbreaking work on involving 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)
Indeed, ensuring that people with disabilities are welcome and may participate fully in the Jewish and the broader secular 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 each passed numerous resolutions on the issue of disabilities. Every February, our Reform Jewish community joins Jews worldwide in observance of Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month.