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Embracing the Religious Obligations of the ADA Rather than the Faith Exemption: by Rabbi Julie Schonfeld

Friday, July 26th marks the 29th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This anniversary should be celebrated by all Jews, as it is so consistent with our values. Indeed, perhaps the first recorded instance of a workplace accommodation is found in the Torah when God commissions Moshe to lead the people out of Egypt. In response to Moses’ claim that he cannot fulfill the mission because he is “slow of speech and slow of tongue,” God says that he will also send Aaron and “tell both of you what to do and he shall speak for you to the people.” The ADA furthered the foundational American principle of equality and ensured that disabled persons, like Moshe, received the accommodations they need in order to fulfill their higher purpose and live with dignity in the world.

Separation of religion and state, another foundational American ideal, is one of the reasons why Jews thrive here like nowhere else in the Diaspora. But this separation also leads to some paradoxes, none greater than the blanket exemption of religious institutions from the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Read more in the Times of Israel

In our Jewish Disability Perspectives newsletter, RespectAbility welcomes a wide spectrum of voices. The views expressed in each Jewish Disability Perspectives contribution are those of the guest contributor.

Meet the Author

Debbie Fink

Debbie Fink was the Director of Community Outreach & Impact for RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities.

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