“I was born with muscular dystrophy. My muscles may not be as strong as everyone else’s, but I’ve learned to adapt and figure out how to do things in my own way. When I was touring colleges, I made sure to meet with the Office of Disability Services on every campus to make sure their services would allow me to live independently. I found an inclusive environment at Princeton University.
“During my freshman year, I knew I wanted to become involved in the Jewish community. The staff at the Center for Jewish Life-Princeton Hillel provided me with my own remote to open the front doors of the Hillel building. They asked me what else they needed to do to make the building accessible for me. Luckily, the Hillel was already accessible, but the fact that they made a point to ask me meant a lot.
“Knowing Hillel was a place where everyone was welcome encouraged me to regularly attend Shabbat with my Jewish and non-Jewish friends. With February just around the corner, I thought, ‘Why not organize a Hillel Shabbat in honor of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month?’ The staff worked with me to host the first-ever Disability Inclusion Shabbat at Hillel. More than 200 students came.
“To me, Judaism is about helping others. One of the most important Jewish values is Tikkun Olam, repair the world. When I graduate, I want to dedicate myself to a career advocating for better policies for people with disabilities. Being Jewish has taught me that I need to do what’s right in order to repair the world.” — Naomi Hess, Princeton University