10 February 2022
Liz Weintraub, a member of Federation’s Disability Inclusion Task Force, has a long history of leadership in disability advocacy. Her career has including multiple state and national board and advisory positions, including as a Fellow for Pennsylvania’s Senator Casey in his DC office. Read what Liz had to share about advocacy, building deeper connections between people, and creating opportunities for participation.
Liz, what did you learn from your experience testifying before the Senate and your time working with Senator Casey in regard to advocacy for the disabled community?
I learned that there are two types of advocates—ones on the inside of the government and those on the outside. To get things done, we need both kinds of advocates. These conversations can’t happen without people with disabilities involved in those discussions, and it starts with sharing stories.
How can we better tell and share these stories and create deeper connections between people?
Encourage conversations between people and create opportunities to connect and find common ground. It doesn’t need to be inspired by a special day or month; we should be encouraging these conversations all year round.
What can community members do to advocate and create awareness for those with disabilities? Do they need to be in leadership position?
Anyone can make an impact. Helping to elevate issues, like barriers to true inclusion, and uplift those with disabilities in the community can make a difference. Also, doing their best to understand this community; be open to asking questions, and be unafraid to learn. People need to have the confidence of the community to have an impact, and that starts with learning more about it.
How can community members and organizations help increase participation and access?
I think an inclusive community is not a question of Jewish or another community, but it’s where everyone belongs and can participate in the life of the community. Not a separate community, but with everyone else. It’s also important that people with disabilities are more than “token” appointments. We want to be full participants in conversations and be encouraged to make a difference within the organization and in the larger community. B’nai Israel has been a great advocate in this regard. Their openness and willingness to include everyone, regardless of their disabilities, in conversations about planning trips, programs, and services, is really important. Inclusion is fine, but we need something deeper. Ask us questions or for advice; we want to truly be involved in the work and in the decision-making.