On February 2nd, The Jewish Federations of North America and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism gathered hundreds of community members and Jewish professionals for Jewish Disability Advocacy Day. The focus of the day was on the potentially devastating consequences for people with disabilities of several of President Trump’s proposals and on actions that we as a Jewish community can take to prevent these policies from being implemented.

“Be not afraid,” encouraged disability advocate Dara Baldwin, but the mood in the packed room was one of grave concern. The JFNA’s Jonathan Westin, Senior Director Health Initiatives, addressed serious concerns on the Republican proposals related to Medicaid. While it hasn’t garnered much media attention, among the first initiatives of President Trump is a proposal to convert Medicaid and SSI to ‘block grants.’ If this proposal becomes law, crucial supports for people with disabilities, including housing, nursing, transportation and job coaching could be eliminated. Cutting these critical services would undermine years of progress for how we care for people with disabilities.

A number of Democratic and Republican representatives addressed the audience in the afternoon and many offered words of support and encouragement for the fight for disability rights. “Challenge America as a beacon of inclusion,” encouraged Representative Jim Langevin of Rhode Island. Langevin who became the first member of Congress to preside over the House of Representatives while using a wheelchair in 2010, has been an outspoken advocate for people with disabilities.

Click here to read more about the Jewish Federation of North America’s policy statement on Medicaid and President Trump’s proposal.

Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer directs Jewish Learning Venture’s Whole Community Inclusion and loves writing/editing for “The New Normal” and for WHYY’s newsworks. Her latest book The Little Gate Crasher is a memoir of her Great-Uncle Mace Bugen, a self-made millionaire and celebrity selfie-artist who was 43 inches tall.