Resources for Disabilities Awareness

And you shall teach [holy words of kindness] to your children,
and speak of them when you are at home and when you are on your way,
when you lie down and when you wake…
Deuteronomy 6:7

Books and Periodicals

The National Organization on Disability’s (NOD) Disabilities and Religion Program, led by Ginny Thornburgh for 19 years before the program moved to the American Association of People with Disabilities, has produced a number of interfaith guides for helping congregations take the initial steps,

  • Loving Justice: The ADA and the Religious Community (1996),
  • That All May Worship: An Interfaith Welcome to People with Disabilities (1994), and
  • From Barriers to Bridges: A Community Action Guide for Congregations and People With Disabilities (2001).


More intensive books are available:

Carter, Erik W. Including People with Disabilities in Faith Communities: A Guide for Service Providers, Families and Congregations. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., 2010.


Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Minneapolis has published an outstanding guide, with practical advice for congregations, religious schools and Jewish service organizations. It is available through

  • Christensen, Shelly. Jewish Community Guide to Inclusion of People with Disabilities. Minneapolis Jewish Community Inclusion Program for People with Disabilities, Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Minneapolis, Minneapolis: ewish Family and Children’s Services of Minneapolis, 2007.


The Alban Institute together with NOD developed a report on ways to raise money to pay for disabilities accommodations, Money and Ideas: Creative Approaches to Congregational Access (2001). This is available for download at, which has many articles on accessibility, from the Unitarian perspective.


Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month Resource Guide is available in PDF format at:


Two of the best books on the topic of Judaism and Disabilities within the tradition are:

  • Abrams, Judith Z. Judaism and Disability: Portrayals in Ancient Texts from the Tanach through the Bavli. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press, 1998.
  • Marx, Tzvi. Disability in Jewish Law. London: Routledge, 2002.


Another good basic introduction is:

  • Astor, Carl. Who Makes People Different: Jewish Perspectives on the Disabled. Edited by Stephen Garfinkel. New York: Youth Commission, United Synagogue of America, 1985.


Journal of Religion, Disability & Health often has valuable articles or issues about Judaism and disabilities. Available at


Down Syndrome Among Us is a Jewish publication about persons with Down syndrome.


Two books about people with disabilities that are about the gifts they bring and about how to succeed in school are written by Jonathan Mooney, a young man with severe dyslexia:

  • Mooney, Jonathan, and David Cole. Learning Outside the Lines: Two Ivy League Students with Learning Disabilities and ADHD Give You the Tools for Academic Success and Educational Revolution. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.
  • Mooney, Jonathan. The Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal. New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2007.



Praying with Lior is a film about the transdenominational and family support of a Bar Mitzvah with Down syndrome.


Rick Lavoie, a nationally respected educator of children with special needs, has several videos that educate about the experience of having learning disabilities:

  • How Difficult Can This Be? The F.A.T. City Workshop (1989)
  • Last One Picked … First One Picked On (1994)
  • When the Chips Are Down …
Strategies for Improving Children’s Behavior (1997)
  • Beyond F.A.T. City (2004)
  • It’s So Much Work to Be Your Friend (2005)


Temple Grandin is an HBO production about Temple Grandin, the woman who changed the cattle industry and became a significant educator about autism.


Sermons, Drashot and Teachings on Disabilities (from the Web)

  • Accessibility Committee, “Words of Wisdom on Inclusion,” United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism,
  • Bradley Artson, “If I am Here, All is Here: A Contemplation on Defects & Wholeness,” American Jewish University, 2010,
  • —, “Shabbat Parashat Naso – 4 Sivan 5765 – God’s Healing Angels,” American Jewish University, 2004,
  • Howard Blass, “Toward an Orthodox Community that is More Responsive to People with Special Needs,” IDEAS: Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, June 11, 2009, .1
  • Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities, “Dimensions of Faith and Congregational Ministries with Persons with Developmental Disabilities and Their Families: A Bibliography and Address Listing of Resources For Clergy, Laypersons, Families, and Service Providers,” Disabilities and Faith, 2005,
  • Benjamin Hecht, “A Torah Response to Jews with Disabilities,” Nishma, 2008,
  • Lynne Landsberg, “No Jew Should Be Left Behind,” The Jewish Daily Forward, February 17, 2010,
  • Naomi Levy, “Jewel-A-Day,” Elul-Day 5, listserv, prod. CraignCompany (August 5, 2010).
  • Jack Reimer, “One of the Most Embarrassing Passages In the Whole Torah – Parashat Emor,” United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism,


1 Naomi Levy, “Jewel-A-Day,” Elul-Day 5, listserv, prod. CraignCompany (August 5, 2010).