Almost 100 percent of the 2,607 relatively engaged Jews polled by RespectAbilityUSA and Jerusalem U agree that “Jewish events and organizations should be as welcoming and inclusive of people with disabilities as everyone else,” with 89 percent of the sample agreeing strongly.
Yet only 8.6 percent of the Jewish sample reported having a disability, leading those who conducted it to suspect that Jews with disabilities must be outside of the engaged community and Jewish life. According to the US Census, 20 percent of Americans have a disability, and the Jewish disability rate must be at least that high, said RespectAbility strategist Meagan Buren said in the press release about the survey.
RespectAbilityUSA and Jerusalem U found the survey’s respondents online by e-mailing lists of subscribers to the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz, in addition to people involved in Jewish organizations, so the sample captured a group of Jews likely to identify with and be involved in the community in some way. This blog also encouraged participation in the survey, specifically of Jews with disabilities.
Yet of the Jews in the sample who did say they had a disability, about 20 percent said they had been turned away or unable to participate in a Jewish event or activity because of their disability.
“While it is wonderful for so many Jews to say they value inclusion of people with disabilities so highly, there is a great distance between the words and deeds in our community,” said Steve Eidelman, a professor and one of the founders of the Jewish Leadership Institute on Disability and Inclusion, which will launch in December in Baltimore.
Helen Chernikoff is the editor of The New Normal: Blogging Disability.