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Synagogues failing members of the community

by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2003-09-22

No warm welcome for disabled

Disabled not welcome at shul?

For some, going to synagogue for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur will once again be a difficult or impossible task. It is not that they can't afford it, it is they may have limited or no mobility. And yet again, synagogues, by not providing facilities to those who have mobility problems are being treated as second class citizens.

In the run up to the high holidays, advertisements in the Jewish press have started to appear from all the main synagogue movements. Glancing through the list of synagogues, while a number certainly show they have facilities for disabled and others of limited mobility, the vast majority of synagogues just don't seem to be doing anything.

Even those who have disabled access, then do not provide toilet facilities to those who need it.

So while you might be warmly welcomed, heaven help you if you then need to go to the toilet at some point during your time at the synagogue.

It really is not acceptable in this day and age for synagogue buildings not to offer disabled access and toilets at the same time.

Yes, many of these buildings are old and were not designed for the disabled in mind, but that is really no excuse not to try and do something.

A synagogue is supposed to be a community centre for Jewish people. The vast majority of secular community centres across the country are fully accessible. If they weren't there would be an outcry. So if the synagogue is supposed to be a centre for Jewish people, then that means it needs to be a place where anyone can come regardless of their mobility and when they get there, it needs to have facilities they can use.

Some synagogues would argue that is costs money to try and do something. Sure, it will cost money but isn't that something that can be raised inside and outside the community either through fundraising or grants?

We need to address the issue on how we make synagogues more accessible, we need to address the issue that it is a place where all are welcome.

By not providing facilities, the various synagogue movements are being totally ignorant to the needs of their members. They should realise and understand that for many people going to shul is not a pleasure, it is a difficult and impossible task. These people want to take part in communal activities but cannot. They want to pray and reflect in a holy place but are unable to so.

Synagogues can no longer be ignorant to the needs of their members and that of the community.

It really is time that when a synagogue advertisement appears and says "we welcome all" and "everyone is welcome" they actually mean it.


SomethingJewish wants to hear about your experiences of going to synagogue. Does you shul provide good facilties? Have you been unable to gain access to the synagogue because of poor faciltiies? What should shuls do?

E-mail your comments to:  views@somethingjewish.co.uk