We Have To Teach So We Can Employ

You are hired; Removing the Stumbling Block

People with disabilities are underemployed. Many individuals who want to work and contribute to the economy cannot because they are often not considered for positions as a result of their disability. We are turning away many capable employees.

Jewish professionals (educators, rabbis, cantors, youth directors, camp professionals, etc.) feel great pride when “one of their own” goes on to a career in the Jewish world. I know that I am thrilled when “kids” we have raised in our congregation come back to teach in our religious school. And when asked, most Jewish professionals will cite meaningful Jewish experiences such as camp, trips to Israel, or youth group participation as well as specific relationships that they formed with “their” rabbi, educator, or youth director as the reason why they pursued a Jewish professional life.

I continue to feel deep pride that we are, at my synagogue, giving all children and teens the opportunity to have those experiences and build those relationships.

However, we are remiss if we do not take it beyond school. Only 25 percent of people with disabilities are meaningfully employed. It is unacceptable that individuals who are otherwise capable, qualified, and eager to work are denied opportunity based solely on disability. We must do better.

Thankfully, there are a few gems that are on a mission to change this trend. If you do not know about Bitty & Beau's Coffee or No Limits Cafe, you should. These companies are showing the world how to meaningfully celebrate the skills and talents that everyone can bring into the work force. 

School is important; a critical starting point, and we have to take it beyond grade school. 

Our colleges and graduate programs must teach accessibility and inclusion while being accessible and inclusive. 

Are we then equipped to make Jewish professional life a reality? To truly call ourselves inclusive we must find the way to go beyond accessible and inclusive Jewish education and programming for children to supporting all aspects of Jewish life. 

Does your community offer accessible jobs in the Jewish world?

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  1. I am mobility impaired and was blessed for 9 years with a synagogue school and administrators who valued me as an educator and did all they could to remove the stumbling blocks. I now run my own school, which is completely inclusive and welcoming. All learn. Always. Thanks for this.

    1. Betsy, I am so glad to hear this! So often the stories most told are the ones of struggle and frustration. I think it is so important to hear these messages of success, too.


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