A Conversation with Jewish Disability Inclusion Champion Steve Rakitt
Steve Rakitt with RespectAbility Fellows and Staff
Rockville, Md., June 26 – Steve Rakitt’s journey to becoming the champion of Jewish disability inclusion began with a single decision to laugh.
Rakitt grew up not viewing his hearing loss as a disability, to which he credits his mother’s incessant support and activism toward the inclusion of Rakitt and his brother. Rakitt viewed his external hearing aid as merely a fashion statement. However, one day the children in his sixth grade classroom decided to communally hum and laugh at Rakitt in an attempt to disrupt his hearing aid and cause him distress. Instead of being offended, Rakitt simply “chose to laugh.” In that singular moment, his life became about who he was as an individual, not letting himself be defined by his disability.
Now, he is preparing to become the new President of the Genesis Prize Foundation. This was preceded by his current position as the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. In this position, he has championed the disability inclusion movement coinciding with his personal admission of hearing loss.
It was not until Rakitt became the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington that he felt comfortable to publically discuss his disability and become the champion for Jewish inclusion in the Greater Washington community.
“Whatever discomfort I originally had about my disability was overpowered by the responsibility I had to reach out and make people aware of a community that hasn’t gotten attention,” Rakitt said while speaking to the Summer 2017 class of RespectAbility Fellows.