In Genesis 1:27, we read that Adam, and by extension, all people, was created in “the image of God.”  This teaches us that there is holiness in all people, regardless of their physical, sensory, emotional or intellectual abilities.  Everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.

Each individual can contribute in some way to the community and the world.  Pirke Avot 4:3 says: “Do not despise any person, and do not disparage any object.  For there is none who does not have his/her hour and there is no object that does not have its place.”  It is our responsibility to provide opportunities for the realization of each person’s contributions and to remove or mitigate obstacles, as Leviticus 19:14 warns, “Do not curse a person who is deaf and do not place a stumbling block in front of a person who is blind.” 

We are also reminded of the importance of education in creating an inclusive community: Jewish tradition teaches us to “educate every child according to his way” (Proverbs 22:6). In so doing, we commit ourselves not only to academic achievement, but also to the development of a Jewish identity, which includes a sense of “belonging” as a community member.

The work of creating inclusive communities and an open society is not only a matter of resources but also how we think about people who have disabilities – and the potential for positive impact on the lives of people with disabilities is significant.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs:

The community relations field should:

[i] United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities – http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=259

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