Guide to Jewish Values and Disability Rights


By Julia Watts Belser




The audio version of this Guide (embedded below) was read by Mark Moshe Bellows.

This book aims to inspire Jewish communities to more fully integrate disability into our conversations about Jewish values—and to affirm the potential for a powerful connection between Jewish tradition and movements for disability justice. By bringing Jewish texts and traditions into conversation with the principles that guide disability activists and human rights advocates, the book highlights the connections between Jewish values and the disability rights movement. It serves as a resource for Jewish leaders, educators, funders, and social activists who seek to integrate disability issues into discussions about Jewish values. It aims to spark conversations about how these values shape our lives as Jews—and how they can inspire us to build more inclusive communities. It suggests steps toward creating Jewish communities that are fully accessible to people with disabilities, welcoming Jews with disabilities into synagogues and Hebrew schools, and promoting equal access to Jewish life and learning. This book emerges out of the conviction that Jews with disabilities deserve access to the richness of Jewish culture—and that our Jewish communities become stronger and richer when they include people with disabilities.

Each chapter uses classic Jewish texts to illuminate Jewish justice principles, and joins those principles with concrete efforts to promote disability inclusion and disability rights:

Chapter 1 explores how the core concept of B’tselem Elohim: The Infinite Value of the Individual affirms the fundamental equality of all people, regardless of disability status.

Chapter 2 delves into the meaning of Areyvut: Communal Responsibility. It shows that enabling people with disabilities to fully participate in Jewish life is a communal obligation and a collective responsibility.

Chapter 3 examines Kavod: Respecting Agency, Promoting Dignity. This chapter addresses ways Jewish communities can affirm the dignity of people with disabilities both by challenging stigma and shame, and by avoiding over-effusive praise.

Finally, Chapter 4 discusses how commitments to Tzedek & Tikkun Olam: Pursuing Social Justice can inspire Jews to expand the boundaries of disability activism beyond Jewish institutions and become partners in the broader movement for disability rights and social change.