Death of Jewish Disability Activist Sheryl Grossman
On March 28, 2022, Jewish disability activist Sheryl Grossman died at the age of 46. She was a fierce advocate and activist for the rights of the disabled and served as a role model and source of empowerment for disabled people both within and beyond the Jewish community.
Grossman was born on December 30, 1975, in Chicago. When she was fourteen, she learned that she had Bloom’s Syndrome, a rare genetic condition characterized by short stature, immune deficiency, and an increased susceptibility to many cancers. Fewer than 300 people have been diagnosed with Bloom’s Syndrome since it was named in 1954, and about a quarter of them, like Grossman, have Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry.
In her junior year of college, in 1996, Grossman launched Bloom’s Connect, an organization that provided crucial resources to people with the condition around the world. In 2008, the group held its first conference in Chicago, hosting 35 families from five countries.
Grossman spent over 20 years in disability rights advocacy, working on issues ranging from access to education and appropriate medical care to voting rights, housing, and employment. As a Community Living Advocate for the National Council on Independent Living, she worked on housing rights for the disabled, facilitating the National Organizing Project. Between her own hospital visits, she advocated for community integration on Capitol Hill. At the Job Accommodation Network, she worked on making the workplace accessible to the disabled. She also served as a board member of Yad Hachazakah, the Jewish Disability Empowerment Center.
Grossman later focused on advocating for those with rare conditions. Since most doctors had never treated anyone with Bloom’s, she saw it as her duty to educate them about the inner workings of the disease. In 2020, Grossman was nationally recognized for her dedication to the rare disease community, and she received a RareVoice Award for her federal advocacy work. She also advocated for those with multiple minority group status, speaking frequently about inclusion in Jewish spaces and coaching Jewish organizations and communities about how to adopt practices that would fully include people with disabilities.
In the last years of her life, Grossman worked on making the Covid vaccine accessible to aged, disabled, and homebound people in Maryland. She also raised awareness about accessibility and privacy issues in the American elections process and how they affect disabled people.
Grossman was an observant Jew who found herself drawn to Orthodoxy in college. As Dana Marlowe, a fellow disability advocate from Silver Spring, told Washington Jewish Week, “Though her advocacy was important, religion always came first.”
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Cohen, Benyamin. “‘Yes, you can bench-press me’: Remembering a 50-pound Jewish disabilities advocate who matched fierce with funny.” Forward, March 30, 2022; https://forward.com/news/484743/sheryl-grossman-jewish-disabilities-advocate-blooms-syndrome/.
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Hajdenberg, Jackie. “Former Wash U student, Sheryl Grossman, Jewish activist who shed light on rare genetic disorder, dies at 46.” The St. Louis Jewish Light, March 29, 2022; https://stljewishlight.org/news/world-news/sheryl-grossman-jewish-activist-who-shed-light-on-rare-genetic-disorder-dies-at-46/.
Hajdenberg, Jackie. “Sheryl Grossman, Jewish disability activist who shed light on rare genetic disorder, dies at 46.” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, March 29, 2022; https://www.jta.org/2022/03/29/obituaries/sheryl-grossman-jewish-activist-who-spoke-out-on-voting-with-a-disability-dies-at-46.
Kim, Sarah Y. “MD Disability Rights Advocates Demand Equitable Vaccine Distribution.” WYPR News, March 5, 2021; https://www.wypr.org/wypr-news/2021-03-05/md-disability-rights-advocates-demand-equitable-vaccine-distribution.
“NCIL Mourns the Loss of Sheryl Grossman.” The advocacy monitor, March 28, 2022; https://advocacymonitor.com/ncil-mourns-the-loss-of-sheryl-grossman/.
“Sheryl Grossman, MSW.” Bloom Syndrome Association, Accessed May 30, 2022; https://www.bloomsyndromeassociation.org/BlankCustom.asp?page=biosk_sgrossman.
Sol Levinson & Bros. “Sheryl Grossman Obituary.” Sol Levinson & Bros, Accessed May 30, 2022; https://memorials.sollevinson.com/sheryl-grossman/4879931/.
TORAHCafé. “Sheryl Grossman.” TORAHCafé, Accessed May 30, 2022; https://www.torahcafe.com/scholar/sheryl-grossman_0000001187.html.
Vanasdalan, Lindsay. “Sheryl Grossman, advocate for disability rights, dies at 46.” Washington Jewish Week, March 30, 2022; https://www.washingtonjewishweek.com/sheryl-grossman-advocate-for-disability-rights-dies-at-46/.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Death of Jewish Disability Activist Sheryl Grossman." (Viewed on December 7, 2023) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/mar/28/2022/death-jewish-disability-activist-sheryl-grossman>.