Chabad Hassidim reach out to the disabled

Ruderman Family Foundation partnering with movement to change the culture to inclusivity.

Chabad headquarters in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York‏ (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Chabad headquarters in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York‏
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
NEW YORK – Chabad- Lubavitch has pledged that it will make efforts to promote greater inclusion of the disabled within its ranks, joining the Reform and Conservative movements which have voiced their commitments to the same goal.
The worldwide hassidic movement, known for reaching out to non-Orthodox Jews, is looking to gather and disseminate information about ways in which it can “create a culture of inclusion for people with disabilities within some 4,200 Jewish communities worldwide,” the group said in a statement.
In an email to The Jerusalem Post, Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, chairman of Chabad’s educational and social services divisions, said that “the overriding Chabad philosophy is based on ahavat Yisrael, love of our fellow Jew,” and as such “we are all members of one family and are therefore concerned with their welfare in every aspect of their lives.”
“The goal for our partnership with Chabad is to change the culture in one of the fastest-growing Jewish movements to embrace the full inclusion of people with disabilities in every corner of the movement,” explained Jay Ruderman, whose family foundation donated a million dollars and is partnering with Chabad to push this agenda.
“This is the same goal we have for our partnerships with the Conservative and Reform movements as well, and each is addressing culture change with slightly different approaches.”
A joint team composed of Ruderman Family Foundation employees and hassidim will come up with strategies that can be implemented by Chabad’s global network of emissaries, because “every single Jewish man, woman and child can and should feel comfortable in all aspects of everyday life,” Krinsky told the Post.
“From attending synagogue or going to school; from shopping in a supermarket to seeing a play, no activity should be beyond their reach.”
While he admitted that the program, which was announced last month, is “still very much in the creative state of development right now,” the collaboration will likely bear a strong resemblance to that between Ruderman and the Reform movement, which generated a series of online lectures to instruct synagogue leaders in how to become more inclusive and welcoming of the disabled, including those with “visible and invisible, physical, psychiatric, cognitive, temporary and more ongoing disabilities.”
“We are proud of our rich and increasingly deep partnership with the Ruderman Family Foundation,” Mark J. Pelavin, chief program officer of the Union for Reform Judaism, told the Post.
The Disabilities Inclusion Learning Center offers a wide array of resources to congregations and others looking to be more accessible to people with disabilities. The center, built by Rabbi Edythe Mencher, coordinator of the URJ-Ruderman Family Foundation Partnership for Inclusion of People with Disabilities, already offers some two dozen video study sessions by leading teachers and activists.
Krinsky offered a similar sentiment, stating that the “goal of this program is to create a culture of inclusion wherein every person can fully live their life in full participation with everything the community has to offer.
It is our goal to reach out to anyone who does not feel welcome and help him or her find the inclusivity that they deserve as a fundamental human right.”