Chabad of Virginia is ushering in Rosh Hashanah with the installation of an adjustable bimah that will allow people who use wheelchairs to reach it.

The new bimah, which is standard height, can be lowered to 30 inches from the ground with “just a push and a click,” says Rabbi Yossel Kranz, co-director of Chabad of Virginia in Richmond with his wife, Nechomi.

“Chabad has always been spiritually inclusive,” he says. With the new bimah, “we can do that physically as well. Everybody of all abilities can now participate.”

The Kranzes say they were inspired to put in the adjustable bimah by the Ruderman Chabad Inclusion Initiative, a partnership between the Chabad-Lubavitch movement and the Ruderman Family Foundation to provide greater accommodations for people with disabilities, specifically in Chabad communities worldwide.

That mandate, according to Dr. Sarah Kranz-Ciment, director of the Ruderman Chabad Inclusion Initiative, comes directly from the Lubavitcher Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—who pioneered the concept of Jewish inclusion in its truest form.

“The Rebbe taught us to value every person based solely on his or her inner essence,” says Kranz-Ciment, who is also Rabbi Kranz’s sister. “The Rebbe reinforced his message of inclusion by tasking each of his followers to make Judaism accessible to every Jew, no matter where they are physically or spiritually.”

Rabbi Yossel Kranz, right, co-director of the Chabad center. Unable to find a bimah for their needs, they designed and built their own.
Rabbi Yossel Kranz, right, co-director of the Chabad center. Unable to find a bimah for their needs, they designed and built their own.

Rabbi Kranz shared that he searched for manufacturers of accessible bimahs; unable to find a one, he realized that the shul would have to design and build its own.

Community members Nathan and Lisa Zasler donated the funds to build the custom-made bimah, hoping that “it sets a model for other synagogues, not just for Chabad, to be more inclusive.”

That’s a message that Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, wants other synagogues to take to heart: “During this High Holiday season, we must all strive to make our synagogues inclusive to Jews of all abilities and their families.”

The accessible bimah can be custom-made in any finish and size. For more information, email: info@rcii.org.