Hundreds of activists are advocating for expanded disability rights as part of the 12th annual Jewish Disability Advocacy Day (JDAD), hosted by the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) in partnership with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
“As a young adult living with a disability, my life’s mission has been to ensure that people with disabilities have the supports and services they need to flourish and be part of the fabric of their community,” added Aaron Kaufman, Jewish Federation of North America Senior Manager of Legislative Affairs. “That is why JDAD is so crucial in helping to breakdown misconceptions about people with disabilities, so that we can be seen for who we are and not solely for our disability.”
JDAD’s advocacy efforts this year focus on two main issues: securing an additional $150 billion to expand Medicaid-funded Home-and Community-Based Services for low-income people with disabilities and passing the ABLE Age Adjustment Act to provide financial stability to an additional 8 million adults. JDAD participants will continue to meet with their representatives over the coming day in order to lobby for these key reforms.
The virtual event featured inspiring presentations from Members of Congress, disability rights champions and remarkable community leaders living with disabilities, as well as sessions on advocacy training.
“Inclusion and acceptance are core tenets of the Jewish faith and the Jewish community,” said Eric Fingerhut, President and CEO of Jewish Federations of North America. “Our community is stronger when we can all sit around the table together, which is why disability advocacy is such an important part of the work Federations do.”
Tony award winner Ali Stroker - the first person to star in a Broadway play while using a wheelchair - and 16-year-old Paralympian athlete Ezra Frech delivered keynote addresses. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), Rep. Dingell (D-MI) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) were given awards for their work to advance inclusion.
“JFNA has been a committed advocate and leader for advancing policies that uplift people with disabilities and empower them to live with dignity,” Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) said. “The progress that we have made from historic investments in Medicaid HCBS to securing long-term extensions to programs like Money Follows the Person wouldn’t be possible without the work that you all do.”
“I would like to thank the JFNA for all that you do to protect and care for our nation’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). “We must work to afford all Americans including our friends in the Jewish community, the opportunity to live with the accessibility, the dignity and the respect that they deserve.”
An estimated 61 million American adults live with a disability. Jewish Federations work every day to support services and initiatives that empower individuals with disabilities, in order to create a more inclusive and equitable society for all humanity.
Jewish Federations support hundreds of group homes, family service agencies, vocational training organizations, nonprofit hospitals and nursing and assisted living facilities nationwide, providing care to over 1.3 million individuals of all faiths and backgrounds. Jewish Federations are also on the frontlines advocating for legislation to expand disability access, advance policies that breakdown barriers to inclusion, and improve vital safety net public programs that are essential for people with disabilities.
JDAD takes place every February during Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month, when Jewish organizations and communities worldwide join in a unified effort to raise awareness and champion the rights of people with disabilities.