A Jewish Heritage of Inclusion

Jewish history and texts are filled with examples of how and why the Jewish community should support Inclusion.

“We see as the basis of our humanity the fact that we are all ultimately the same.  We are vulnerable.  We are embodied creatures.  We feel hunger, thirst, fear, pain.  We reason, hope, dream aspire.   These things are all true and important.  But we are also different.  Each landscape, language, culture, community is unique.  Our very dignity as persons is rooted in the fact that none of us – not even genetically identical twins – is exactly like any other”.

Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (“The Dignity of Difference, Continuum, London New York, Toronto, 2002)

  • Moses

In Shmot (Exodus 4:11) G-d told Moses that he would lead his People out of Egypt.  Moses replied that he could not do this for he was slow of speech and heavy of tongue.  G-d was angry at this response and made it possible for Moses to fulfill his destiny by providing Aaron to speak for him.  This is one of the earliest examples of making an accommodation to allow a person with a disability to fulfill a role.  Moses could now do the work G-d had commanded him to do and went on to be one of the great leaders of the Jewish People.  G-d chose Moses because of his personal vision and strength – his speech disability was insignificant in G-d’s plan.  Without G-d’s inclusivity approach, Moses may have never been chosen.  People with disabilities can not only participate but also make a valuable contribution to our community.

  • Abraham

In Bereshit (Genesis 18:1) Abraham welcomes three guests into his camp, preparing a lavish meal for them and allowing them to rest in his tent.  Abraham and Sarah were older and childless; the guests told them they would have a son.  This parasha illustrates how we, as Jews must treat all those who enter our ‘tents’, and the rewards that this can bring.

 Short quotes about Jewish Inclusivity:

Welcome everyone…with joy (Ethics of our Fathers, 1:15)

“Though it is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, nor are you free to desist from it entirely” (Ethics of the Fathers 2:16)

‘Love your neighbour as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18)

“All Israelites are responsible for one another” (Talmud Sanhedrin 27b)

“My house shall be a house of prayer for all” (Isiaih 56:7)

Educate each child according to their needs(Proverbs 22) 

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, who am I? And if not now, when?” (Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14)

It is not what one says, but rather what one does, that makes a difference.” (Ethics of the Fathers 1:17)

The Haggadah refers to four sons: One wise, one wicked, one simple and one who does not know how to ask a question.  We are taught to respond to each according to their needs.