By Len S.
Recently, I participated in Jewish Disabilities Advocacy Day (JDAD). I went with the president of my local NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth) youth group, Temple Rodef Shalom, in Falls Church, VA. As Social Action Vice President of my youth group and a person involved in the Deaf community, it was amazing to see these two worlds meet and have this group of people come together to lobby on Capitol Hill. The morning was filled with amazing speakers, all sharing their experiences or thoughts on how to make change in our government regarding disability. Perhaps the best part, for me, was having the sign language interpreter there, interpreting for the deaf and hard-of-hearing participants in the room. I later went up to have a conversation (in sign language) with some of the deaf people. They too, remarked how great it was to have involvement from so many different walks of people in both the Jewish and disabled communities.
This was not my first time lobbying on the Hill, but it was my first time lobbying with people who shared the same specific interests as me and had lots of education on the topic. The team we were lobbying with worked well together, with each person bringing a different perspective to the conversation. The Autism specialist talked about her experiences being employed by school counties, the inclusion coordinator at my synagogue talked about ways the bill we were talking about affected her job, and I talked about my experiences at high school. The legislative aide we talked to listened and responded with what she foresaw the Representative doing. This experience was amazing, gave me a sense of belonging, and made me feel like I could effect change.
The day was great. It was a unique and incredible experience that I will take with me in the future. The things I learned were beneficial, not only for my life now, but also for how to bring about change in the future. I will definitely attend again!
Len was a Chavurah camper in the summer of 2017.