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The Avodah Blog

Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month

The following remarks were given by Rabbi Lauren Tuchman, Avodah’s Ruach Avodah Spiritual Advisor, on February 3, 2021/22 Shvat, 5781 at the #JDAM (Jewish Disability Awareness Month) kickoff, hosted by Jewish Federations of North America.

Headshot of Rabbi Lauren Tuchman. She is wearing a maroon shirt, gold necklace, and kippah inside of a synagogue.
Rabbi Lauren Tuchman, Avodah’s Rabbi-in-Residence and Ruach Avodah Spiritual Counselor.

I would like to begin by first thanking The Jewish Federations of North America for your kind invitation to speak tonight. It is an honor and a privilege to be with you all as we begin our month-long observance of Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month, of which our celebration tonight of Jewish Disability Advocacy Month is an integral component.

In our Torah portion this week, Parashat Yitro, we encounter one of the most fundamental events in Jewish collective and historical consciousness—the revelation of Torah on Mt. Sinai.

Our tradition teaches that this foundational event in our founding as a nation was at once a collective and an individual experience. We experienced revelation with all of our senses, all gathered, as one at Sinai. We also each experienced the revelation, as we learn in a Midrash in a way that we each, individually could comprehend. Put another way, the Torah has 70 faces, 70, here, being a stand-in for infinite. Just as we all were together as one people to receive Torah, we each were able to receive this collective gift and blessing in a way that was comprehensible to us.

Our tradition understands that we are stronger when our differences are lifted up and celebrated as ways of being human that are and have always been with us. This past year has caused so much to be revealed that had been concealed before for so many, including the reality that stigma, discrimination, and fear of disability communities and experiences are still very much a part of the fabric of society.

This Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month, let us take our tradition’s at once radical and challenging call to heart. Revelation included all of us, in all of the varied ways in which we were able to receive Torah. So, too, do we know intrinsically that we are stronger when the richness of the tapestry of our lives and
experiences are able to find their home in our communities. And as we work tirelessly for advocacy priorities through Jewish Disability Advocacy Month, may we be strengthened and inspired in our efforts by our tradition’s insistence that all life is precious. May our work move us even closer to a society and world that allows all of us to thrive.

Watch and listen to Rabbi Lauren Tuchman’s Torah commentary on Parashat Yitro on My Jewish Learning’s YouTube page here.

Rabbi Lauren Tuchman is Avodah’s Ruach Avodah Spiritual Advisor. Based in the Washington, D.C. area, Rabbi Lauren Tuchman is a sought after speaker, spiritual leader, and educator. She is also the first-known blind woman rabbi. Ordained by The Jewish Theological Seminary in 2018, she has taught at numerous synagogues and other Jewish venues throughout North America and was named to the Jewish Week’s 36 under 36 for her innovative leadership concerning inclusion of Jews with disabilities in all aspects of Jewish life. In 2017, she delivered an ELI Talk entitled We All Were At Sinai: The Transformative Power of Inclusive Torah. She has trained and continues to teach with Rabbi David Jaffe and the Inside Out Wisdom and Action Project, which provides a space for Jewish spiritual and contemplative practice for social justice activists rooted in the spiritual discipline of Mussar and the teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. She serves on the board of JOIN for Justice, which trains Jews in community organizing for social change.

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