Disabilities Awareness

Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha’olam, m’shaneh habriot –
Blessed is the Holy One of Being, who formed diversity in creation.

Photo by Susan Berland

Jewish tradition has a complicated history concerning people with disabilities. On the one hand, most of the patriarchs and matriarchs, let alone Moses, lived with a disability. Indeed, it might be that their disability gave them the empathy and the humility to be true leaders. We were leaders in both public education and special education. Of course, this being about Judaism, there are challenges as well: discussions about spiritual fools and people with intellectual challenges made them interchangeable; people with disabilities were protected sometimes and segregated sometimes.

This checkered past has been part of the ongoing diminishment of people with disabilities in the wider culture, and can still be felt today, when children with learning disabilities or autism, etc. do not have ready access to congregational life, and when synagogues still use antiquated sound systems or still do not have wheelchair access to the bima.