Nearly 150 advocates participated in the sixth annual Jewish Disability Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 10. The aim of the event, organized by Jewish Federations of North America and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, was to advance federal policies that ensure that all members of the community are treated with equality and have access to the resources they need. February was Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month.
Representatives of the Greater MetroWest community who took part were Rebecca Wanatick, community inclusion coordinator, Greater MetroWest ABLE; Melanie Roth Gorelick, director, Community Relations Committee of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ; Linda Press, executive director, Jewish Service for the Developmentally Disabled; Addy Bonet, CEO, Jewish Vocational Service of MetroWest NJ; Larry Mandel, GMW federation Donor Resource Center associate; and John Winer, executive director, J-ADD-Jewish Association for Developmental Disabilities.
The group visited the offices of NJ legislators, meeting with Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-Dist. 10) and with legislative aides of Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Dist. 7) and Rep. Scott Garrett (R-Dist. 5). The focus was on advocating for policies that would address transitioning to competitive employment for individuals with disabilities and increase resources and support for family caregivers.
“Jewish Disability Advocacy Day showed our legislators that this issue is of very high priority to our community,” said Roth Gorelick. “Although we work with the interfaith community and we are advocates for inclusion throughout the year, we believe that this was a strong statement to make.”
Wanatick said, “We had the opportunity to advocate for issues that are relevant to families right here in our Greater MetroWest community. The challenges facing families with regard to respite care and finding competitive employment for their family members with disabilities is an ongoing challenge. We hope that our lobbying efforts will help lead toward greater change.”