New Jewish Disability Resource Online!

Neil and Denise Jacobson and I, pausing long enough for a photo. Image by Linda Burnett.
Neil and Denise Jacobson and I, pausing long enough for a photo. Image by Linda Burnett.

What untapped resources are hidden in plain sight in your temple membership?

My friend and teacher Neil Jacobson has a bold vision for congregations. He says it so well that I am not going to try to paraphrase. Just watch: Ask Not What the Temple Can Do for People with Disabilities, Ask What People with Disabilities Can Do for the Temple. This video is as un-sappy a take on disability as you will ever experience.

It’s part of a new website co-sponsored by the Union for Reform Judaism and the Ruderman Family Foundation. The website is designed for use by Reform congregations, but it is so well done that I hope it gets broad use both within the movement and beyond it as well.

Many good Jews want to observe the mitzvot concerning blindness and deafness:

Do not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God. – Leviticus 19:14

Too often these mitzvot are approached from the Dark Ages, when a cheresh (deaf person) seemed incapable of communication, and more recently, when people with disabilities were seen as objects of pity or as heroes. In fact, people with disabilities are first and foremost people with gifts to give and talents to share.  We are human beings, made b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of the Divine.

Shake off the Dark Ages! Stop wasting the gifts of members in your congregation! If you want to learn about disability, if you are part of a congregation that wants to make better use of its resources, if you want to observe the mitzvot addressed in Leviticus 19:14, check out!


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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

3 thoughts on “New Jewish Disability Resource Online!”

  1. It takes so little to know and appreciate another with “abilities beyond” (what I call disabilities) than what those of us consider “normal”. It is simply a smile, an introduction and the willingness to sit and listen!

    The reason I call them “abilities beyond”, is because I know not what it takes to live with that individual’s diversity. Case in point, my niece’s mother-in-law is severely crippled with MS, a terrible, debilitating disease. Since I have come to know her, I find her to be one of the most gracious, kind and sweet tempered ladies I ever met. At family gatherings, sadly she is often sitting apart from others, not because they want to exclude her, but more because her mobile scooter is so cumbersome it doesn’t fit easily in rooms where we are all gathered. My niece or my sister used to say to me, ” Please sit and talk to Ellen; we will take care of the food (or dishes).” Not the case anymore…she and I are the first people we look for upon arriving. I so happily enjoy speaking with her!!! Ellen and I have become great friends. She tells great stories about her life as a girl, a co-ed, a young mother, etc. She is also very candid about her illness. I simply listen…she just wants an ear. Often she will call me on the phone to talk. She and I have met for lunch too! My relationship to Ellen has brought joy to my heart and very soul! She brings me believable hope that the human spirit is greater than I ever thought possible.

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