Faith community inclusion is evolving. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became effective on July 26, 1990 with the purpose to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. It covers all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.
Religious organizations and entities controlled by religious organizations mostly have no obligations under the ADA. However, as Disability Rights Advocate, the late Rabbi Lynne Landsberg, reminded us, “Despite the legal exemption, the ADA is a moral mandate for faith communities.”
RespectAbility understands and believes in the importance of inclusion in faith-based organizations, so much so that it is one of the pillars of our work. Given the significant role that faith and faith-based organizations play in American life, RespectAbility works for full inclusion in all faith groups.
We believe that faith communities are stronger when they embrace and act upon values of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
RespectAbility’s Jewish Inclusion programs, listed on this page, provide practical strategies, real-life stories, and so much more for any faith community to use.
RespectAbility’s Senior Director of Faith Inclusion and Belonging, Shelly Christensen, has longstanding experience in Jewish and Interfaith Inclusion. “People with disabilities and mental health conditions, and those who love them, want what everyone wants. To feel a sense of belonging.”
RespectAbility’s Faith Inclusion and Belonging Newsletter lifts up and amplifies the efforts of people with and without disabilities who are working to ensure that disabled people can fully participate in all aspects of faith community life. Do you want to contribute? Please reach out to Jake Stimell at [email protected].
RespectAbility’s Inclusive Congregations Guide provides ways to make your in-person and virtual services, gatherings, and events as inclusive and accessible as possible. We are proud to offer this guide to congregations of all faith traditions.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in Faith Communities
- Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Access = Belonging
- Before Events and Services
- General Accessibility Guidelines
- In-Person Events and Services
- Virtual Events and Services
- About The Authors
The mission of Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month is to unite Jewish communities worldwide to raise awareness and champion the rights of all Jews to be accepted and included in all aspects of Jewish and community life like anyone else. This directly connects to RespectAbility’s mission statement and that of the Faith Inclusion & Belonging Department: To fight stigmas and advance opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of faith community life.
Welcome to your journey of disability inclusion! Your commitment to ensure that the one-in-five members of the Jewish community who have disabilities can bring their talents, gifts, and whole selves to our community can truly strengthen us all. This toolkit is here to help you succeed!
Download the accessible Word document, or view each section of the toolkit by following the links below:
- Inclusion 101
- Hosting Accessible In-Person, Virtual, and Hybrid Events
- Bar and Bat Mitzvahs
- Additional Information
- Appendix A: Jewish Inclusion Webinars
- Appendix B: Live Captioning Companies
- Appendix C: ASL Interpreting Companies
- Appendix D: Common Acronyms
- Appendix E: Disability FAQ
- Learn More About Specific Disabilities:
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)/Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
- Autism/Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Blind/Vision Loss
- Cerebral Palsy
- Deaf/Hard of Hearing
- Down syndrome
- Dyslexia and Other Learning Disabilities
- Little People/Dwarfism
- Mental Illness: Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Depression
- Mobility Impairments Requiring the Use of a Wheelchair
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
The Jewish world is becoming steadily more aware of, and eager for, contributions of people with disabilities. As such, speakers in our Disability Training and Speakers Bureau are available to speak virtually (for the time being) at Jewish conferences, synagogues and organizations.
Including people with disabilities is something that more than 90% of Jewish organizations say they want to do and yet a survey of the Jewish world shows that fewer than 15% of Jews can identify a single leader with a disability in Jewish communal life. This series was a complement to our previous series training organizations, and was designed to introduce Jewish lay leaders with disabilities to topics and skills that will help them to lead as volunteers and professionals in nonprofit organizations.
- Effective Social Media Posts: A Primer
- How Nonprofits Work
- Development: Individual Prospects
- Development: Foundations
- Leading at the Next Level: Working in the Jewish World
- Effective Disability Advocacy from the Inside
- Accessible Events: Both In-Person and Online
Jewish organizations, leaders and activists were invited to a free online training series so they could learn how to welcome, respect and include people with disabilities from all backgrounds in the important work that they do. All sessions included American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters and captions, and were screen reader accessible.
- Inclusion as a Jewish Value
- How to Advance Disability Inclusion in Jewish Education
- How to Recruit, Accommodate and Promote Jewish Leaders with Disabilities for Paid Employment and Volunteer Leadership
- How to Ensure Accessible Events: Both Live and Virtual Across All Platforms
- How to Ensure a Welcoming Lexicon, Accessible Websites and Social Media and Inclusive Photos
- How to Create and Implement Successful Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives
- How to Ensure Legal Rights and Compliance Obligations
“What Do You Pray For?” is a series of short interviews of Jews with disabilities who tell viewers in their own words what they pray for and what prayer means to them. The project features Jews with various disabilities from across the United States, with a myriad of different connections to their Jewish identity. Watch the videos and read the transcripts at the links below.
- Erika Abbott: Writer / Award-Winning Poet
- Ariella Barker: Attorney, Policy Advisor and Communications Specialist
- Justin Borses: Former College Student and employee at Moorpark College
- Lee Chernotsky: Founder and CEO, ROSIES Foundation
- Samantha Elisofon: Award-Winning Actress (“Keep the Change”) and member of EPIC Players, A Neuro-inclusive Theater Company in Brooklyn
- Alex Howard: Entertainment Media and Jewish Inclusion Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program
- Matan Koch: Director of RespectAbility California and Jewish Leadership
- Amy Rosenfeld-Kass: Teacher from The Saul and Carole Zabar Nursery School at the JCC
- Ben Rosloff: Communications and Jewish Inclusion Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program
- Rachel Rothstein: 4th year Rabbinical Student at the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion
- Barry Shore: Ambassador of Joy and Successful Serial Entrepreneur
- Ari Sloan: Member of EPIC Players who is living with Autism
- Joshua Steinberg: Program Associate for RespectAbility California and Jewish Leadership
- Rabbi Lauren Tuchman: Rabbi, Public Speaker, Spiritual Leader and Educator
- Blair Webb: System Change Youth Advocate at MEET THE BIZ and former Jewish Inclusion Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program
- Aaron Wolf: Co-founder of Howling Wolf Productions and Award-winning Actor, Director, Speaker, and Activist
Download the accessible Word document or view each section of the toolkit by following the links below:
- Before the Service or Event
- During the Service or Event
- Ensuring Accessible Hybrid Events
- After the Service or Event
- Webinars on How to Make Your Programs Accessible
- About Our Co-Authors
- Appendix A: Live Captioning Companies
- Appendix B: ASL Interpreting Companies
- Appendix C: Materials Available
- List of Accessible Streaming Services
- High Holiday Synagogue Toolkit 2019 (DOCX)
If you are Jewish and find that your commitment to inclusion is grounded in those values, then the Jewish Inclusion Apprenticeship may be for you! Jewish Inclusion Apprentices will work closely with our Jewish inclusion team and with our National Leadership Program Director to help RespectAbility assist Jewish institutions in accessibility and equality issues. Individual projects will be assigned based on an individual’s unique ability to “bring something to the table.”
Polls on Jewish Inclusion
- 2021 Faith Inclusion Survey: PowerPoint
- 2018 Poll: Most Jews Don’t Know Any Rabbis or Staff with Disabilities
- 2014: New Poll of Faith in the Disability Community Released
- 2013: New Poll Data of 2607 Jews
- Sojourners: My Disabled Body Proclaims the Gospel
- Sojourners: Covid Exposed Christian Ableism. What Happens When Churches Reopen?
- RespectAbility: Revisiting “Please Rise”
- Beyond the Hijab: Re-thinking Disability in Islam
- Cosmopolitan: The Pandemic Tried to Break Me, but I Know My Black Disabled Life Is Worthy
- Georgetown Berkley Center: The New Normal? A Buddhist Perspective on Disability and COVID-19
- Jewish Disability Inclusion at Chabad – This page has essays and articles written by people with disabilities, family and community members, as well as how-to guides developed by the Ruderman Chabad Inclusion Initiative (RCII) to provide the tools to successfully include people with disabilities.
- “Serving Jewish Children with Disabilities and their Families” (Journal of Jewish Communal Service, 12/10/14) – Viewpoint as to why educators should strive to create settings that are open to students of all abilities
- “12 Israeli Technologies Changing the Lives of the Disabled in 2015” (Forbes, 1/20/15) – Israeli technological breakthroughs for people with disabilities
- “Nalaga’at Theater at the Kennedy Center” (3/26/14) – Israel’s Nalaga’at Theater Deaf-Blind Acting Ensemble, RespectAbility, and the White House’s Claudia Gordon at the Kennedy Center
- “Israeli playground, ‘Sesame Street’ help include kids with disabilities” (Washington Jewish Week, 7/31/13) – Sesame Street in Israel modeling positive inclusion by introducing a character with disabilities
- “Stop by the vice president’s sukkah: VP Joe Biden invites children with disabilities to decorate a Chabad-built sukkah at his DC residence” (Times of Israel, 9/24/13) – Vice President Biden and Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden welcomed DC children with disabilities to decorate a sukkah at Number One Observatory Circle
Do you know other people or nonprofit organizations that should be included as a resource?
Contact our Communications Associate, Eric Ascher, at [email protected].
More Resources You Can Use
- Disability Training and Speakers Bureau
- African Americans
- Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
- Communications, Marketing, and Advertising
- Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline
- Entertainment Professionals
- Fighting Racism and Unconscious Bias
- Hispanic and Latinx
- Inclusive Philanthropy
- Job Seekers
- Policy Makers
- Sex Education
- Spinal Cord Injuries