Jewish communities and leaders from across the United States, including those from the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, participated in the seventh annual Jewish Disability Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
On Feb. 2, more than 180 representatives of Jewish organizations heard from speakers who focused on concerns regarding potential congressional budget proposals that would jeopardize access to needed services for millions of Americans with disabilities.
Under a block grant or per capita cap, crucial services would likely be cut due to a sharp decrease in Medicaid spending. People with disabilities depend on Medicaid for home and community-based services, including daily living assistance and employment supports, health care, physical and occupational therapies, transportation and case management.
All of these services help people with disabilities live healthier and more independent lives in their communities.
Members of Congress spoke briefly, thanking those participating in the day and sharing their concerns with their own representatives. Speakers included Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland; Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, whose son has Down syndrome; and Jim Langevin of Rhode Island, who lives with quadriplegia as a result of a childhood accident.
Rabbi Levi Shemtov, executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), also addressed the proceedings, noting the great respect that the Lubavitcher Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—showed for Israeli soldiers with disabilities. The Rebbe called them metzuyanim, “exceptional soldiers,” as opposed to nechim, “disabled,” which was formerly the accepted terminology.
Attending the daylong session on behalf of Chabad were Ruderman Chabad Inclusion Initiative (RCII) director Dr. Sarah Kranz-Ciment, PT, DPT; RCII Inclusion Specialist Shelly Christensen; RCII advisory member Yossi Kahana; and Nechama Shemtov, also of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad). Among the programs under their purview is the Friendship Circle of Washington.
“This day reminds us of the great responsibility that we have to ensure that people with disabilities have equal opportunities to contribute to our society, as well as the Jewish unity needed to accomplish that,” said Dr. Kranz-Ciment. “Chabad philosophy teaches that we treat each person with dignity and respect, knowing that each neshama [‘soul’] is equally holy and has unique gifts to share.”
Jewish Disability Advocacy Day is sponsored by more than 50 Jewish organizations and held as part of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month, recognized every February in Jewish communities across the United States, Canada and Israel.
Chabad communities in these countries are hosting events this month as part of an ongoing commitment to welcoming and supporting people with disabilities, creating a more vibrant, inclusive Jewish community for all.