I’m sitting at the dining room table (or “desk”) at the Washington DC home of my dear friend, Rabbi Lynne Landsberg. She is one of the driving forces behind inclusion of people with disabilities in sacred communities. As someone who sustained a devastating traumatic brain injury (TBI)12 years ago in a traffic accident, Lynne’s incredible and ongoing work to live her life fully is guided, I think, by her passion and respect for all people, and her belief that she must be strong enough to make the difference in society that is her destiny.
I met Lynne at the Alliance for Full Participation Conference in Washington DC in 2005 when we both were invited to be panelists on a forum about inclusion in sacred communities by our friend, Rev. William Gaventa, another great partner in sacred community inclusion. Lynne spoke about being part of one minority before her accident, the Jewish people. After her accident she became part of another minority, people who have disabilities. A friendship developed when we were both headed to another meeting in Rockville MD and shared a cab. When we had a little time to kill, we found a very elite Goodwill Thrift Store and enjoyed our love of thrift shopping. Every time I’m in Washington DC, we head over to the Opp Shop in Bethesda, which, if you’re ever in the area, should be one of your destinations.
We are friends as Jews, as moms, and as advocates, as well as thrift shoppers.
Lynne has advocated for Jewish Disability Awareness Month with the Religious Action Center (RAC) where she serves as Senior Advisor of Disability issues, and as co-chair of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) Disability Task Force. She co-chairs the Jewish Disability Network along with Dave Feinman of Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), another great partner in this work. JDN includes a number of Jewish organizations that have Washington offices and have designated staff whose portfolios include disability issues. It is gratifying to know that this growing network has the backs of people with disabilities from a policy perspective.
(I will devote space about the February 7 Jewish Disability Awareness Month Advocacy Day in a later post.)
It is important for you to know that Jews from many areas of Judaism and from many areas across the country join together to work for the civil rights of people with disabilities. Together we have a good and strong voice and we must continue to speak out about on issues such as cuts to Medicaid and other legislation that could affect people with disabilities and their families.
As my Zadie Max z’l’used to say, “To be known you have to be shown.”
Among Lynne Landsberg’s many teachings is this: You must not keep silent when you can be a voice to someone who needs you to speak out with them. In spite of the challenges of learning to live with TBI and re-establishing functionality in nearly every basic activity of life, Lynne’s voice is never still. “Justice, justice you shall pursue” (Deut. 16:20) could be her motto. I’m sure if you sit quietly for just a moment, turning off the noise around you and in your head, you will hear Lynne’s voice reminding you that as God’s partners, we must take the time to do what’s good and right on behalf of others who may not be able to speak out.
You won’t be able to resist the call of this extraordinary woman who teaches us the greatest of lessons by how she lives her life.