The Community’s Responsibility to Provide Handicapped Accessibility to the Synagogue

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  • Cover Type: Download
  • Number Of Pages: 26 Pages
  • Center: Human Rights and Judaism

A contemporary responsum by Rabbi Yehuda Zolden that explores the community's responsibility to enable people with physical handicaps to attend synagogue services. It concludes that it is permissible to obligate members of a synagogue to finance accommodations that will make the synagogue accessible to regular worshipers in the synagogue who have disabilities.

Can the public be forced to spend money on making a synagogue handicapped accessible for a single individual? Can members be forced to help pay for this accessibility? Is it the community's responsibility? 

In 2005, a sixth section, dealing with accessibility, was added to the Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities Law 5758-1998. This section establishes an obligation to make buildings, infrastructure, the general environment, and public services accessible so that people with disabilities can use them freely. Making people with disabilities full participants in social and communal life, as well as public and social awareness and sensitivity about this issue, create a halakhic obligation to enable maximum, autonomous functioning in the public domain. Such treatment is not just an expression of charity and kindness, but a halakhic duty and responsibility of public leaders.

The community can and must be partners in demanding the fulfillment of this obligation, in addition to the fulfillment of the personal duty of chesed that requires every individual to help the needy, both financially and with their bodies. Therefore, it is permissible to require the members of a congregation to finance accommodations that will make a synagogue accessible to people with disabilities who are regular worshipers in the community.

Click here for the full download (Hebrew) 

This project has been made possible by the generous support of The Ruderman Family Foundation and an anonymous foundation operating in Israel

The Ruderman Family Foundation

Rabbi Yehuda Zoldan is a Chief Supervisor of Talmud and Oral Law Instruction in the state religious education system and a lecturer at the Midrasha for Women at Bar-Ilan University.