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The Jewish Federations of North America
Leadership Briefing
Jewish Federations Advocate for Individuals with Disabilities and Their Families 
February 16, 2012

Jewish Disability Awareness Month takes place each February, and The Jewish Federations of North America continues to advocate for individuals with disabilities and promote greater inclusion in the Jewish community.

To mark Jewish Disability Awareness Month, JFNA developed a range of programs and initiatives designed to raise awareness of the needs, strengths, opportunities and challenges facing people with disabilities. JFNA released a 2012 Jewish Disability Awareness Month Resource Guide, a helpful tool to aid Jewish Federations in creating events and programs that promote greater inclusion of people with disabilities and their families.

In addition, JFNA created materials to help Jewish Federation boards and other leadership groups to start a conversation about disability issues, as well as a website where Federations can find resources and programming suggestions during Jewish Disability Awareness Month and throughout the year.

The Jewish community, through its institutions and social service agencies, has been increasingly effective in serving the needs of individuals with disabilities and their families. Medicaid is an important component for addressing these needs.

As part of Jewish Disability Awareness Month, more than 30 Jewish community lay leaders and professionals, including representatives from seven Federations and JFNA, traveled to Washington to participate in Jewish Disability Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill on Feb. 7. Medicaid was the focus of conversation and advocacy throughout the day’s events, which included a forum for congressional staff and advocacy meetings with key Members of Congress.

The significance of Medicaid to people with disabilities is even more meaningful in light of the Obama Administrations FY 2013 Budget proposal. The budget proposal contains changes to the Medicaid program that, if enacted, could reduce payments to health care providers including Jewish social service agencies.

"Medicaid is a critical program for so many people with disabilities and their families, as well as the Federations and agencies that serve them," said Marcia Cohodes of Minneapolis, Disability Committee Co-Chair.

“Jewish Disability Advocacy Day was a great opportunity for lay and professional leadership, including a number of members of JFNA’s Human Services and Public Policy Disability Committee, to engage in advocacy on an important issue to the disability community,” said Dan Guyer of Detroit, Disability Committee Co-Chair. “We hope this sets a precedent of further involvement in promoting these issues going forward.”

Many Federations have already established Jewish Disability Awareness Month programs, and through their leadership’s participation in Jewish Disability Advocacy Day, have gained more perspective on the importance of engaging in advocacy on critical issues to the disability community.  

“The Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County serves thousands of children, adults and seniors with disabilities every year. Jewish Disability Advocacy Day was a unique opportunity to share the remarkable challenges facing our local families,” said Dr. Michelle LaRocque, director of Community Special Needs Services at the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County. 

“I could not have done this alone and greatly benefited from being a member of a delegation of dedicated professionals, led by JFNA,” she continued. “This day strengthened my resolve to ensure that individuals with disabilities aren't just in our communities but are part of our communities, in every possible way.”

“Federations and their partner agencies are prepared to address the challenges the disability community is facing now more than ever,” said William C. Daroff, vice president for Public Policy and director of JFNA’s Washington office. “A key to addressing those challenges is Medicaid, and the advocacy efforts of Federation lay leaders and professionals are critical to ensuring this program remains a viable resource for the disability community and others for years to come.”

Learn more about other Jewish Federation efforts and initiatives around Jewish Disability Awareness Month. Read JFNA’s detailed analysis of the Obama Administration's FY2013 Budget Proposal.

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The Jewish Federations of North America
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PO Box 157
New York, NY 10268