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Disability Rights

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Rabbi Minna Bromberg leading a workshop

Why We Need Fat Torah

Ariadne Wolf

Until fatphobia is erased from our Jewish lives, people with bodies like mine will never be able to truly come home.

Episode 98: By Disabled Jews, For Disabled Jews

What did JOIN for Justice, the Jewish Organizing Institute and Network, do when the pandemic made its in-person community organizing fellowship impossible? It turned the obstacle into an opportunity, shifting to a virtual fellowship specifically for people with disabilities. 

Over seven months in 2021, a cohort of Jewish young adults with a wide range of disabilities, race and gender identities, and social justice interests met online for JOIN’s Access to Power Fellowship.  In this episode of Can We Talk?, we hear from the Access To Power director and two participants about how the fellowship shaped them, how their Jewish and disabled identities intersect, and why disabled people should be at the forefront of movements for social change.

Sue Wolf-Fordham

Women Who Dared

Julie Johnson interviewed with Sue Wolf-Fordham on March 4, 2005 in Massachusetts for the Women Who Dared Oral History Project. Wolf-Fordham explores her early exposure to social activism through her mother's engagement in the Boston Jewish community, which led her to create adaptive tools for Ukrainian children with disabilities and establish an Educational Resource Center, and her dedication to passing on these values to her children.

Gaby Brimmer Publishes Her Autobiography

January 1, 1979

Author and disability rights advocate Gabriela “Gaby” Raquel Brimmer published three bestselling books, despite being unable to speak and only able to move her left leg and foot as a result of cerebral palsy. 

Line drawings of two faces on red and white watercolor wash background

My Complicated Relationship with Passing

Noa Karidi

If people choose not to actively “come out” to the world, they are not accepted as their full selves. To be ”known” they have to make their marginalized identities known too. But that is difficult.

Sadie Shapiro

Sadie Shapiro was an American-Jewish medical social worker who made pioneering contributions to the field of rehabilitation. She developed a novel service for wounded soldiers during World War II that integrated medical care, rehabilitation, and occupational retraining. Regarded as the nation’s top expert in the field of medical social work, Shapiro was hired by the AJJDC to oversee medical social services among Holocaust survivors in the DP camps of Europe.

Gertrude Webb

Women Who Dared

Judith Rosenbaum interviewed Gertrude (Goldie) Mikel Webb on January 15, 2002, in Waltham, Massachusetts, for the Women Who Dared Oral History Project. Webb, a Boston educator, discusses her Jewish upbringing, a career in teaching students with learning disabilities, and ongoing commitment to helping others influenced by her Jewish heritage.

Judith Wolf

Women Who Dared

Julie Johnson interviewed Judith Wolf on February 23, 2005, in Boston, Massachusetts, as part of the Women Who Dared Oral History Project. Wolf reflects on her Jewish upbringing, volunteer work, religious schooling, and efforts to establish educational resources for disabled children in Ukraine, emphasizing the role of women and Jewish values in her life.

Judy Panko Reis

Women Who Dared

Rosalind Hinton interviewed Judy Panko Reis in Wilmette, Illinois, on February 21st, 2007, as part of the Women Who Dared Oral History Project. Disability activist Judy Panko Reis overcame personal tragedy to fight for equitable access in disability transportation and co-founded the Women with Disabilities Center while pursuing higher education and working as a Healthcare Policy Analyst.

Marilyn Golden

Marilyn Golden was a long-time disability rights advocate who played a leading role in advancing accessible architecture and transportation in the United States. She was a key player in developing the accessibility provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and ensuring their effective implementation.

Hebrew letters on a dark background

Turning Toward Myself and My ADHD

Mirushe "Mira" Zylali

I'm inspired by friends who are open about their disabilities, and by Sephardi and Mizrahi musicians who delight in playing with sound. 

Judith Wolf

Soviet Jewry

Alexandra Kiosse interviewed Judith Wolf in Newtown, Massachusetts, on July 25, 2016, as part of the Soviet Jewry Oral History Project. Wolf talks about her Jewish identity, marriage, and active involvement in the Soviet Jewry Movement and support for children with special needs, as well as her concerns for the future state of politics and the importance of public discourse.

Victoria Marks

Victoria Marks (b. 1956) is an American dancer, choreographer, professor, and activist. Marks began dancing as a child and later expanded her career as the founder of Victoria Marks Performance Company and a professor at various conservatories around the world. She is also an advocate for mental health and accessibility, collaborating on films that investigate the effects of mental illness and founding the Dancing Disability Lab at UCLA in 2014.

Death of Jewish Disability Activist Sheryl Grossman

March 28, 2022

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.

Ann Meyers Kaplan

Weaving Women's Words

Pamela Brown Lavitt interviewed Ann Meyers Kaplan on March 30, 2001, in Mercer Island, Washington, as part of the Weaving Women's Words Oral History Project. Kaplan shares her family background, upbringing in Seattle, career, involvement in the National Council of Jewish Women, advocacy for the hearing impaired, reflections on Jewish identity and community, and fond memories of various aspects of her life.

Marlee Matlin

Marlee Matlin’s Oscar-winning film debut in 1986’s Children of a Lesser God made history on multiple fronts. At 21, not only was Matlin the youngest-ever Best Actress winner, she was also the first Deaf actress to be recognized by the Academy. Her subsequent career in film and television, as an author, and as an activist for the Deaf community, has paved the way for inclusive, nuanced storytelling that showcases Deaf culture to hearing audiences.

Publication of Julia Watts Belser’s "Rabbinic Tales of Destruction: Gender, Sex, and Disability in the Ruins of Jerusalem"

January 4, 2018

On January 4, 2018, Julia Watts Belser, a scholar who applies the lenses of gender, sexuality, disability, and ecology to Jewish texts, published her book Rabbinic Tales of Destruction: Gender, Sex, and Disability in the Ruins of Jerusalem.

Photo of Riva Lehrer on left and cover of her book Golem Girl on right

Interview with Riva Lehrer, Artist and Author of "Golem Girl"

Jen Richler

JWA talks to artist Riva Lehrer about her recent memoir, Golem Girl, and the way her disabled, queer, and Jewish identities intersect.

Rachel Kest with her two children

Kids Are Struggling. As Parents of Kids with Disabilities Already Know, Schools Can Help.

Rachel Kest

For tips on how to help kids thrive, look no further than parents of kids with disabilities—and Maimonides.

Helene Hines on her handcycle

This Year, Resolve to Be More like This Badass Woman

Madisen Siegel

Whenever she heard ‘no,’ Helene Hines pushed back—and proved everyone wrong.

Judith Heumann

Judith (“Judy”) E. Heumann, a founder of the disability rights movement, is an internationally acclaimed leader of the disability community. Based in Washington, D.C., Heumann has been instrumental in the development and implementation of disability rights legislation.

Episode 61: Being Heumann with Judy Heumann

Judy Heumann is a lifelong disability rights activist—from fighting for her own right to live in a college dorm, to lobbying for the Americans with Disabilities Act, to leading major initiatives at the World Bank and State Department. Judy is committed to removing the barriers that prevent disabled people from fully participating in society, a topic she explores in-depth in her memoir, Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist. She tells her story for Can We Talk? and for JWA's revised and updated edition of the Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women.

Background Collage of School supplies with Picture of Dodie Altman-Sagan Studying at Gann Academy, 2019 in the forefront.

Underfunded and Unavailable: The Need for Accessible Education in the US

Dodie Altman-Sagan

In my family of four kids, my dyslexia made me the odd one out. I believed it was uncommon, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Judith Heumann leads the 504 Sit-in in San Francisco

April 5, 1977

On April 5, 1977, Judith Heumann led demonstrators into the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in San Francisco, where they staged a sit-in demanding the signing of the regulations to operationalize Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973.


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