I’ve never had to buy a ticket for a High Holiday service, nor have I not been welcomed at a High Holiday service. This is something I have always taken for granted. But for thousands of Jewish families in Boston, this is not the case.
July 2010 marked the 20th anniversary of the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Many of our synagogues have handicap parking spaces, curb cuts, ramps and handicap accessible bathrooms, but the majority of our High Holiday and Shabbat services are still only for the able-bodied individual. How many synagogues have interpreters for individuals who are hard of hearing or have large print prayer books? How many of our services are welcoming, open and inviting to families who have children with special needs? I often hear stories about families who were asked to leave their synagogues, not just services, because their child was too disruptive.
For a community that prides itself on welcoming the stranger, why do we often reject our own people? Just because a child may pray differently: louder, with pictures, with drawings or with music, isn’t it still prayer? According to the Torah, we are all made in God’s image. Shouldn’t we, as Jews, aspire to accept all people made in that image no matter what form they come in?
As we welcome the Jewish New Year 5771, I would hope that the synagogues and congregations in the Boston Jewish community would open their hearts and services to all individuals in the community. Whether it is inclusive children’s services, scent free bathrooms, providing interpreters, large print prayer books or just welcoming Jewish individuals with disabilities who just want to pray their own way. For other ways you or your synagogue can become more inclusive, please visit the Yesodot website.
Have a happy and healthy new year!