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Chabad of Virginia Installs Accessible Bimah in Time for the High Holidays

Chabad of Virginia Installs Accessible Bimah in Time for the High Holidays

Working with the Ruderman Family Foundation to provide more accommodations for people with disabilities

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A new standard-height bimah at Chabad of Virginia in Richmond can be lowered to 30 inches to accommodate those who use wheelchairs.
A new standard-height bimah at Chabad of Virginia in Richmond can be lowered to 30 inches to accommodate those who use wheelchairs.

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.

By Chabad.org Staff
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Marvin Finkelstein Flushing September 10, 2015

My house will be called a "house of prayer for all people" This is a great stiep to this prophecy. When a fellow congregant tells you that one has no right to ask for an accessible synagogue and all is according to the Torah,
that is definitely not right. To make a fellow congregant feel bullied, abused, because of minor prayer errors, etc. is not right.
To use a part of the Torah to one's advantage to knock down somebody else is like violating all 613 Mitzvahs. Reply

Chanah Ariella Rosencrantz September 10, 2015

B"H
Yasher Koach!
As a registered nurse who also has a disability, I can see that this is a step in the right direction to open up the world for people with mobility issues.
From a chasidah in Seattle Reply