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CJL welcomed disabled author Emily Ladau for Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month Shabbat

Naomi Hess / The Daily Princetonian

For its sixth annual Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Shabbat, the Center for Jewish Life (CJL) hosted Emily Ladau, a Jewish disability activist and author, for Shabbat on Friday, April 12. Ladau’s work as an activist began at age 10, when she made an appearance on Sesame Street to teach kids about what life is like with a physical disability.  

“I think that people look at me and think my disability is a tragedy, but in fact, it’s opened up so much to me in terms of reshaping my perspective and understanding how the world around me operates, understanding how I can support people around me, [to] feel welcomed,” Ladau told The Daily Princetonian in an interview.  


The CJL has regularly hosted Shabbat events that center identities shared by students on campus in the past few months, including a LGBTQ+ pride Shabbat and Shabbats hosted by Latinx, Asian, and Middle Eastern affinity groups. Disability Awareness and Inclusion Shabbat has typically been held in February, which is Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month, but the event was moved to April this year. 

Current Young Alumni Trustee Naomi Hess ’22 started Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month Shabbat in 2019, and the event has been held every subsequent year, providing space to explore the intersection of Jewish and disability identities. Hess, who attended this year’s Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Shabbat, shared her excitement for the event with the ‘Prince,’ saying “it means a lot to see the continued support of disability in Jewish spaces.”

Hess is a former associate News editor for the ‘Prince.’

Two women in electronic wheelchairs in the center of the photo. Flanking them on the left and right are two other women with jackets on. A door can be seen behind them.
Students pose with panel guests Emily Ladau and Naomi Hess. From left to right Rooya Rahin ’23, Naomi Hess ’22, Emily Ladau, Tess Weinreich ’25. 
Courtesy of Naomi Hess

After Shabbat services and dinner at the CJL, Ladau held a panel on her book, “Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How to Be an Ally,” and her experiences as a disabled Jewish woman. Joking that she is a “professional disabled person,” Ladau kept spirits light as she navigated discussions on her intersectional identity, what it means to be a disabled author, and what inspires her activism. 

“I always try to explain to people that nobody exists in a vacuum, and we all have multiple identities,” she said, elaborating that “when we think about intersectionality, it’s not just a buzzword. It’s really the core of everyone’s being.”


Ladau’s book delves into what it means to be a good ally to disabled people. During her panel, Ladau emphasized the idea that allies to disabled people should “say nothing about us without us,” ensuring that the voices of allies serve to amplify disabled people, rather than speak for them. 

Regarding her writing process, Ladau spoke about how one of her biggest challenges was not wanting anyone to think that she was “speaking for anyone but [herself],” seeing her book as a piece of the disability conversation rather than representative of every disabled person’s experiences. Her recent focus has been on helping other people tell their own stories through Able News, a news publication written by and for disabled people. She also shared that she is in the final stages of writing a children’s book.

Towards the end of the panel, Ladau affirmed that disabled students “have a right to show up and take up space,” and emphasized the need to “be the squeaky wheel” in spaces to make change for disabled people. 

Ladau ended the panel by reminding the audience that she is more than her disability. In response to a student who asked if there were any questions that she wished they had asked, she said that “sometimes I wish people would ask me about something other than my disability,” inspiring the student to ask her what her favorite musical is. After sharing that her favorite musical was “Rent,” she underscored to the audience, “you are human in so many ways.”

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Vitus Larrieu is a contributing News writer and head Podcast editor for the ‘Prince.’

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