Israeli synagogues to mark ‘Accessibility Shabbat’

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An “Accessibility Shabbat” will be held in communities across Israel.

The program being held this coming Shabbat is designed to highlight the need for greater respect for the handicapped and disabled within the religious community, and in Israeli society in general, is hosted by the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization.

The initiative was launched via a video campaign demonstrating saying the Shema prayer via sign language, reflecting the message of inclusion in religious practice despite any specific handicaps.

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Accessibility Shabbat is being held in coordination with the International Accessibility Day which is taking place worldwide on December 3rd.

“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 Yuval Cherlow, chair of the Tzohar Committee on Jewish Ethics, 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.”

Cherlow called on participating synagogues to 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 accommodations for the deaf. The organization also called for synagogues to allot a specific budget for the needs of the handicapped with the goal of making as many religious facilities as possible accessible.

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