The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have had the pleasure of working with high school students at our Bernard and Audre Rapoport L’Taken Social Justice Seminars, helping them discover the power of advocacy. One of the best aspects of this experience has been hearing students practice speeches they deliver to congressional offices. As the legislative assistant covering disability rights, I have heard students speak passionately for the rights of people with disabilities. Many students are personally connected to the issue, making it even more impactful to hear their wisdom.
Luckily, this opportunity to transform passion into action is available more broadly in the Jewish community. This coming February we will commemorate Jewish Disability Advocacy and Inclusion Month. The month will allow us to turn inward—into our congregations, religious schools and families—to reflect on successes and shortcomings in achieving inclusion.
In addition to this moment for self-reflection, the month will begin with an opportunity for advocacy to federal legislators about the importance of protecting the rights of people with disabilities. The seventh annual Jewish Disability Advocacy Day (JDAD) will be the official kick-off to this important month in the Jewish calendar. The event, cosponsored by the RAC and the Jewish Federations of North America, will bring together a number of communities for a common goal of expressing the Jewish commitment to this issue.
Please join me in advocating with and for people with disabilities and the programs that benefit them.
The event, which will take place on February 2, 2017, is a chance to come to Washington, D.C. and learn and advocate, as well as to connect with others across the country. Registration is now open, and features a special rate for students interested in participating.
As in years past, JDAD will be a chance to hear from leading Senators and Representatives of both parties who are committed to protecting disability rights. The day will also feature leaders in the Jewish community and others who devote their time to this important work.
This year is a particularly important year to attend JDAD. Discussions of the future of Medicaid, Social Security, and other crucial programs indicate that our advocacy will be essential. Additionally, the ADA Education and Reform Act, a bill that was introduced during the 114th Congress, threatens to hamper the power of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a seminal piece of civil rights legislation.
As Jews, we know our commitment to uphold the greatness of all people. In Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of our Fathers, we learn to “not disdain any person. Do not underrate the importance of anything for there is no person who does not have his hour, and there is no thing without its place in the sun." Moreover, our tradition teaches that communal bonds are the strongest way of lifting up one another. The opportunity to work with a variety of people and organizations within the Jewish community on this issue makes JDAD one of the most exciting events of the year. I am eagerly awaiting February, and hope you can us in D.C.!