(JNi.media) Conceived by Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, Chair of the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization‘s Committed on Jewish Ethics and one of Israel’s leading thinkers on Ethics in Religious Society, the first ever “Accessibility Shabbat” will take place in communities across Israel this weekend. The program—held in coordination with the International Accessibility Day which takes place worldwide on December 3—highlights the need for greater respect for the disabled in the religious community and Israeli society.
“The reality is that the specific challenges posed by the handicapped are all too often overlooked within our religious community and many of our synagogues and community facilities are not made amenable to the needs of this population,” Rabbi Cherlow said in a letter announcing the initiative. “This cannot be the Jewish way of doing things and we must re-examine our approach and make our facilities and communities more accommodating in every possible way.”
Accessibility Shabbat will includie educational elements as well as proactive initiatives intended to enact practical approaches to benefit the handicapped. Tzohar’s website and its network of community rabbis have distributed educational materials stressing approaches to the disabled in the Jewish sources which community members will be encouraged to learn over the Shabbat.
Rabbi Cherlow said that every participating synagogue should review their facilities to find ways to make them more amenable to the physically handicapped as well as providing prayer books and study materials for the blind and sight-impaired and relevant accommodations for the deaf. “Fundamentally, even while we know that we need to pay attention to caring about the handicapped community, we often fail to take the next step to seeing exactly what we can do to be more inclusive and compassionate. This Shabbat will give us that opportunity and hopefully encourage an ongoing dialogue on this topic.”
Tzohar encouraged synagogues to allot a specific budget for the needs of the handicapped with the goal of making as many religious facilities as possible accessible.
Rabbi David Stav, founder and President of Tzohar, said that the goal of the program is to remind every Jew to be more cognizant of the needs of others. “Compassion for those less fortunate than others is an inherently Jewish value, but at times we need to be reminded of specific ways to take that understanding and put it into practical terms.”
Tzohar Executive Vice President Yakov Gaon said that while the program is currently being launched in Israel with participating communities, plans are already in place to take the initiative globally in coming years.JNi.Media