National Jewish Organizations Speak Out For Disability Rights


Washington, DC — Led by The Jewish Federations of North America, 55 national Jewish organizations joined together in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) opposing the House-passed ADA Education and Reform Act (H.R. 620), legislation which would turn back the clock on the civil rights of people with disabilities by weakening the 28-year old Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These 55 organizations represent the diverse heart of the organized Jewish community including all of the main religious streams, rabbinical and cantorial organizations, those specifically focusing on disability inclusion and ones promoting social justice and civil rights, social service networks, groups working with young people and older adults, and many others.

“At JFNA, we know that the ADA Education and Reform Act promotes neither education nor reform. That is why we are mobilizing federations, national Jewish agencies, and grassroots advocates to prevent H.R. 620 (or any similar legislation) from receiving the 60 votes required to pass the Senate,” said William Daroff, JFNA’s Senior Vice President for Public Policy & Director of its Washington Office. “This bill would undermine a key part of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), creating additional barriers for people with disabilities before they can legally challenge businesses for violating the federal law. If enacted, this legislation would take our country backwards after we have seen great progress in making our country more accessible for people with disabilities. No other members of a federally protected class have to wait to exercise their legal rights alleging discrimination, and neither should people with disabilities.”

The Torah dictates, “You shall not insult the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind.” In keeping with this teaching, JFNA opposes changes to the ADA that would impose new notice and cure provisions, requirements and delays for individuals with disabilities who are trying to challenge the remaining barriers to full inclusion in public accommodations. “As Jews, we are acutely aware of our obligation to create a more inclusive society and our responsibility to fight against policies that would make life more difficult for people with disabilities. We are thrilled that so many of our national partners in the Jewish community understand the importance of inclusion and the necessity in protecting these fundamental civil rights,” said Daroff.

The ADA, the longstanding and landmark civil rights law protecting people with disabilities, was enacted with tremendous bipartisan support and was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. Since the ADA’s enactment, people with disabilities now enjoy unprecedented access to housing, education, public and private spaces and businesses, and public transit. Although some barriers still remain, the ADA has made a significant difference in providing Americans with disabilities the opportunity to participate in our society in a way that was previously unimaginable.

Under H.R. 620, individuals with disabilities who encounter barriers in public accommodations would no longer be allowed to seek immediate legal recourse as they can do now under the ADA. Instead, they would be forced to first notify the business then endure a lengthy waiting period before being allowed to bring a legal challenge. JFNA believes that any new notice and cure provision added to the ADA would effectively eliminate the current incentive for businesses to proactively make their facilities accessible to people with disabilities.

Signatories on the letter – Agudath Israel of America ** American Conference of Cantors ** American Zionist Movement **Anti-Defamation League ** Association of Directors of Community Agencies for Jewish Education ** Association of Jewish Aging Services ** Avodah ** BBYO ** Bend the Arc Jewish Action ** Bet Tzedek ** B’nai B’rith International ** Bnai Zion Foundation ** Cantors Assembly ** Central Conference of American Rabbis ** Foundation for Jewish Camp ** Gateways: Access to Jewish Education ** Grand Board of the Aleph Zadik Aleph ** Hadassah: The Women’s Zionist Organization of America ** Hazon ** Inclusion Innovations ** International Board of the B’nai B’rith Girls ** JCC Association of North America ** Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action ** Jewish Association for Developmental Disabilities ** Jewish Council for Public Affairs ** Jewish Deaf Resource Center, Inc. ** Jewish Democratic Council of America ** The Jewish Federations of North America ** Jewish Labor Committee ** Jewish Learning Venture ** Jewish Service for the Developmentally Disabled ** Jewish Women International ** Judith Creed Horizons for Achieving Independence (JCHAI) ** Keshet ** Matan ** Men of Reform Judaism ** Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation ** National Association of Jewish Legislators ** National Council of Jewish Women ** Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies ** Orthodox Union ** Rabbinical Assembly ** Rabbinical Council of America ** Reconstructing Judaism ** Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association ** Sigma Alpha Mu Fraternity ** Sulam ** Truah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights ** Union for Reform Judaism ** United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism ** Women of Reform Judaism ** Women’s Rabbinic Network ** Yachad, The National Jewish Council for Disabilities ** Yad HaChazakah-The Jewish Disability Empowerment Center Inc. ** Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity