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Jewish Disability Speakers Bureau Launched

Talented speakers available for online conferences, educational programs and other events

Los Angeles, California, Dec. 21 – Fully 1-in-4 adults has a physical, sensory, cognitive or mental health disability and people with disabilities can be the most talented people on earth. Indeed, Thomas Edison – America’s most famous inventor – was deaf. Harriet Tubman freed slaves while living with Epilepsy. Stephen Hawking unlocked secrets of the universe while using a wheelchair. Almost all the “sharks” on Shark Tank have learning disabilities and climate change activist Greta Thunberg is Autistic.

The same is true in the Jewish world. Our most celebrated leader, Moses, had a speech impediment, and delivered some of the most powerful messages in Jewish history. From journalists like Charles Krauthammer to paragons of justice like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jews with disabilities have continued to serve, and share gifts with the world.

The time has come for all Jewish organizations to benefit from the talent and perspective that Jews with disabilities have to offer.

Therefore, RespectAbility is proud to announce the launch of our Jewish Disability Speakers Bureau. The launch comes as the Jewish community is becoming steadily more aware of, and eager for, contributions and perspectives of people with disabilities. In addition to disability inclusion programming, the Jewish community is eager to hear this important perspective reflected in all of our panels and conferences. As such, our speakers include lawyers and entrepreneurs, teachers and rabbis, and even a filmmaker and a comedian, among other voices.

27 headshots in black and white of Jewish speakers bureau speakers

Speakers in RespectAbility’s Jewish Speakers Bureau

To offer just a few stunning examples:

  • Aaron Wolf, award-winning actor, director, speaker and activist, is currently working on a project harnessing his own experience as a person living with learning disabilities to destigmatize having a disability.
  • Lee Chernotsky, an entrepreneur, interweaves his MBA with his lived experience as a person with a disability and decades of learning from and with other people with disabilities. He generates opportunities for people with various disabilities to engage and work, and is the founder & CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer) of ROSIES Foundation.
  • Rabbi Lauren Tuchman, in addition to being the first blind female Rabbi, is a sought-after speaker, spiritual leader and educator. Rabbi Tuchman was named to the Jewish Week’s 36 under 36 for her innovative leadership concerning inclusion of Jews with disabilities in all aspects of Jewish life.
  • Pamela Schuller is an internationally-known disability and mental health advocate and professional stand-up comedian whose stories of growing up in a body she had no control over (due to Tourette) are engaging, powerful, a little bit heart-wrenching and unapologetically funny.

Individually and in groups, these speakers are available to speak virtually (for the time being) at Jewish conferences, synagogues and organizations.

“More and more, the Jewish world is acknowledging the value of panels and programming that represent the diversity of the Jewish people, in terms of gender, race, sexual orientation and other facets,” says Matan Koch, Director of California and Jewish Leadership at RespectAbility. “Even as we advocate that disability should be included in that reflection, we recognize the need to supply organizations with talented Jewish speakers with disabilities for their programs and panels.”

In order to meet both the current and future needs of the Jewish world, RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau: Jewish Division contains a mix of some of the most experienced and sought-after speakers with disabilities in the Jewish world, as well as new talent. Those new to this work are being trained in a combination of workshops, mentorships and speaking opportunities where they are paired with more experienced speakers.

This training is made possible by the funders of RespectAbility’s Jewish work, including the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, The David Berg Foundation, Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, The Diane P. & Guilford Glazer Fund and others.

Says Debbie Fink, RespectAbility’s Director of Community Outreach & Impact who leads the Speakers Bureau initiative, “we are tremendously excited to add so many talented speakers to our National Disability Speakers Bureau: Jewish Division, alongside our successful Women and Non-Binary Persons Division. Our many experienced speakers are available to book for upcoming engagements, including Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month in February.”

Speakers include:

  • Aaron Kaufman: Senior Legislative Associate, The Jewish Federation of North America.
  • Aaron Seglin: Musician and educator.
  • Aaron Wolf: Award-winning actor, director, speaker and activist.
  • Adam Fishbein: Vice president of the Pennsylvania Tourette Syndrome Alliance (PA-TSA) Board of Directors and a member of the National Center for Learning Disabilities’ (NCLD) Young Adult Leadership Council.
  • Alex Howard: Film critic and passionate advocate of audio description for all media.
  • Ariella Barker: Attorney, policy advisor and communications specialist.
  • Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt: Actor, writer, and advocate for disability and autism representation in the entertainment industry.
  • Arielle Silverman: Founder and consultant, Disability Wisdom Consulting.
  • Denise Sherer Jacobson: Author, educator, activist, and oral historian
  • Erika Abbott: Poet, writer and Jewish advisory committee member
  • Eric Ascher: Communications Associate, RespectAbility.
  • Jason Lieberman: Board member, American Friends of AKIM.
  • Jennifer Fink: Social entrepreneur and management consultant.
  • Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi: President of RespectAbility.
  • Jordyn Zimmerman: Graduate student at Boston College and former Hillel International Student Cabinet Member who has challenged the status quo in the education system for students with disabilities.
  • Joshua Steinberg: Program Associate for RespectAbility California and Jewish Leadership.
  • Lauren Appelbaum: Vice President, Communications, RespectAbility and award-winning disability inclusion and accessibility consultant in the entertainment industry.
  • Lee Chernotsky: Founder & CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer) of ROSIES Foundation.
  • Lily Coltoff: Communications Associate, Hillel International.
  • Lisa Sage: Board member, Temple Kol Tikvah in Woodland Hills, CA.
  • Matan A. Koch: Director of RespectAbility California and Jewish Leadership, RespectAbility.
  • Neil Jacobson: Board Member, RespectAbility and Founder and CEO, Abilicorp
  • Pamela Schuller: Disability and mental health advocate and professional stand-up comedian
  • Rabbi Darby Jared Leigh: Rabbi, Congregation Kerem Shalom, Concord, Massachusetts.
  • Rabbi Lauren Tuchman: Speaker, spiritual leader and educator.
  • Tamar Davis: CEO, Gateways: Access to Jewish Education.
  • Yonatan Koch: Teacher and author.

Learn more and book speakers at https://www.respectability.org/speakers-bureau/jewish.

Meet the Author

Matan Koch

Matan A. Koch is Vice President for Workforce, Leadership, and Faith Programs at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. A longtime national leader in disability advocacy and a wheelchair user himself, he is a graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School. Koch oversees RespectAbility’s workforce engagement and education portfolio, advocacy pipeline including, speakers Bureau and civic engagement initiatives, and our Jewish and other faith-based programs. He also leads RespectAbility’s California office.

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