Religious Organizations Must Be Inclusive

August 22, 2016   Opinion

New Mobility Magazine | Source

accessible-bima-religious-inclusion

Temple Emanu-El of West Essex in Livingston, New Jersey, installed this ramp to its bima to better serve its members. Photo by Johanna Ginsburg/New Jersey Jewish News.

When it comes to disability, religious organizations still do not fully understand inclusion. As a result, they are missing an opportunity to learn, adapt, and lead.

I was raised in a conservative Jewish household in rural upstate New York, attended Hebrew school, and was Bat Mitzvahed at a synagogue almost 30 miles away from my home. There were only three Jewish students in my entire school, so religious diversity was limited, and disability inclusion wasn’t even on the radar.

In 1983, when I was 16, I became a quadriplegic and returned to high school after a long period of rehabilitation. Between being Jewish and having a disability, I felt different, like I didn’t belong.

There was no refuge in the synagogue my family attended, since it was not fully accessible. The bima (altar) had steps and the bathroom was not wheelchair accessible. In fact, after my injury, I never went back to that synagogue. My own personal internal struggle of trying to deal with my injury had me questioning whether there even was a God, so I had no interest in going back to an inaccessible synagogue.

Read the full article at New Mobility.