The modern cantor has a place in all of Jewish communal life. The cantor interacts with everyone in the community, and therefore, the cantor has a great opportunity to affect positive change for people with disabilities within the community.
If our communal life is not available for all who want to participate, we are failing to fulfill a basic mitzvah (commandment) – and we’re also missing out on an essential part of our sacred community.
Within our congregations are individuals who live with disabilities, as well as family members and friends and people who support people with disabilities. As Jewish leaders, we simply cannot ignore a fifth of our community or treat them as marginal members.
We know it’s important – and invaluable – to create a seat in the classroom for every child. But saying is easier than doing. How can we use the rules of improv to make inclusion happen in our congregations?
Rather than planning separate programming for people with disabilities, take a look at what your community already offers and view it through an inclusive lens. Ask, “What can we do to make this more inclusive?”
As Jews, we know all people are created in the image of God, but seeing that Divine presence doesn’t happen simply because we wish it to be so. It takes intentionality to view each person, regardless of his or her differences, as unique and holy.
Rabbi Edythe Held Mencher, L.C.S.W. and Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner