Disability Advocacy and Our Potential to Effect Change: A Message from Gil Preuss

Disability Advocacy and Our Potential to Effect Change: A Message from Gil Preuss

Our tradition teaches us that we must each uphold the dignity of others. The seemingly simple idea that everyone is created in the image of God has played a profound role in defining the Jewish community and our relationship to the rest of the world.

Not only are we forbidden to place a barrier in front of the blind, we must also take personal and collective responsibility for ensuring that everyone is treated with respect and dignity.

At The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, we believe that our community will not be whole until everyone feels welcome and included, regardless of their abilities.

To that end, we are proud to work with a range of partners to advocate for people with disabilities. Together with more than 100 community members who contribute their time and expertise as part of Federation’s Disability Inclusion Network, we strive to translate our values into tangible, effective changes that help make the Jewish community, and Greater Washington more broadly, accessible for everyone.

Congregations and day schools are rolling out comprehensive programming to discuss what it means to be truly inclusive. Multiple initiatives like the ReelAbilities film festival and Mental Health First Aid trainings are helping to raise awareness about the challenges that individuals face and how we can best be of service.

Our support for this work reflects our commitment to shaping a community that cares for all its members and acts as a force for good in the world. Yes, we must work hard to make the Jewish community inclusive for all.  At the same time, this commitment extends beyond our own institutions. What does it mean if we only address the needs of the people within our own community, if we truly believe that all people are created in God’s image?

Here in the Nation’s Capital, these lessons take on an even greater level of importance. By advocating for people with disabilities, we not only enable all members of our community to participate in Jewish life, we also help to build the mechanisms and lay the groundwork for universal change. We serve as a model of what is possible when people and systems work together in support of every individual. We learn from our own experiences and help translate this into broader impact.

As we observe Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month, I hope we continue to push ourselves to live up to our ideals. Together, we can draw on the teachings of the past to build a brighter future for ourselves and our world.

We can help to meet the needs of each community member while also finding more ways to expand our efforts to the benefit of all.

Shabbat Shalom,

On March 31, The Jewish Federation will be hosting our annual Road to Independence Resource Fair for young adults with disabilities and their families. Learn more.