An amendment that would exempt religious educational institutions from the obligation to make their building accessible to people with disabilities recently passed a preliminary vote in the Knesset. In response to this development, a group of leading Israeli rabbis sent an urgent letter to Israel's elected officials, requesting their intervention in order to prevent the exemption from applying to religious schools. Rabbi Shay Piron, who directs IDI's work in the area of individuals with disabilities under the auspices of the Human Rights and Judaism project, coordinated this important effort. A translation of the letter can be found below.
The Human Rights and Judaism project's work to advance the rights of people with disabilities is supported by
The Ruderman Family Foundation
We were sorry to hear of the intention to exempt religious schools from the obligation to enable access for people with disabilities-an obligation that currently applies to all public institutions in Israel-by means of an amendment to the Equal Opportunities for People with Disabilities Law.
We view this amendment as a serious blow to the efforts to integrate people with disabilities into the community of all human beings, who are created in the image of God. Yeshivas, houses of study, synagogues, and ritual baths must serve as a paradigm of equality by being accessible to all. It is inconceivable that Israeli law would specifically single out yeshivas and houses of study for such an exemption.
The proposed amendment should apply to all the small public institutions that would not be able to bear the financial burden of making their buildings accessible. All medium and large institutions, however, must be required to be accessible.
''And you shall do that which is right and good in the eyes of God that it may be well with you, and you may enter and inherit the good land that God promised to give your fathers'' (Deuteronomy 6:18). The rabbis interpret "right'' as referring to the eyes of Heaven, and "good'' as referring to the eyes of man (Tosefta, Shekalim).
- Rabbi Yaakov Ariel - Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan; President of the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization
- Rabbi Elisha Aviner - Rabbi of Mitzpe Nevo, Ma'ale Adumim; Head of the Birkat Moshe Yeshiva
- Rabbi Aharon Eisenthal - Rabbi of Chispin; Head of the Golan Yeshiva
- Rabbi Azriel Ariel - Rabbi of Atarot
- Rabbi Eliyahu Blumenzweig - Head of Yeshivat Yerucham
- Rabbi Rami Rachamim Berechiah - Rabbi of Talmon
- Rabbi Baruch Gigi - Head of Yeshivat Har Etzion, Alon Shvut
- Rabbi Avraham Gisser - Rabbi of Ofra; Chief Rabbi of Ofra, Head of the Institute for Halacha and Law; Chairman of the Counsel for National-Religious Education in Israel
- Rabbi David Dudkevitch - Rabbi of Yizhar
- Rabbi Re'em Hacohen - Rabbi of Otniel; Head of the Otniel Yeshiva
- Rabbi Yehoshua Weitzman - Head of the Ma'alot Yeshiva
- Rabbi Eliezer Melamed - Rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva, of Har Bracha
- Rabbi Shmuel Zafrani - Head of the Meiri Yeshiva, Jerusalem
- Rabbi Itshak Levy - Former Minister of Education; Head of Impact at the Israel Democracy Institute
- Rabbi Moshe Lichtenstein - Head of Yeshivat Har Etzion, Alon Shvut
- Rabbi Nahum Neria - Head of the Torah BeTzion Yeshiva, Jerusalem
- Rabbi Elyakim Levanon - Rabbi of Elon Moreh; Head of Elon Moreh Yeshiva
- Rabbi David Stav - Rabbi of Shoham; Chairman of the Tzohar rabbinical organization
- Rabbi Shaul Inbari - Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu
- Rabbi Shay Piron - Head of the Petah Tikva Yeshiva Hesder Yeshiva and its affiliated High School; Rabbi of Oranit; Researcher, The Israel Democracy Institute
- Rabbi Yoel Katan - Director of the Shlomo Oman Institute; Head of the Shaalvim Yeshiva
- Rabbi Amit Kula - Rabbi of Kibbutz Alumim
- Rabbi Avichai Ronsky - Rabbi of Elon Moreh, Head of the Elon Moreh Yeshiva; Former Chief Rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces
- Rabbi Yuval Cherlow - Head of the Petach Tikva Yeshiva
- Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira - Head of the Ramat Gan Yeshiv