Support Local Journalism


Today, July 26, marks 30 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush. In a bipartisan effort, Americans of all flavors came together, to bring hope, light and real change to those in our beloved union who struggle with disabilities.

The ADA didn’t become the law of the land overnight. There were many steps, mostly baby steps, taken with perseverance throughout the 20th century that culminated with that incredible moment on the south lawn of the White House. Each of those steps forward, including the passage of Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, prohibiting discrimination based on a disability, made a world of difference

I was only 8 years old when the ADA was passed, which is why, to me, it sounds so wrong to think that a person with a disability would be paid less for their hard work, be denied a dining opportunity at a restaurant or be asked not to board a bus with their wheelchair. In the era, and community, in which I was raised, those who struggled with disabilities were treated with an extra dose of care, not less.

My childhood friend, Tzvi, was wheelchair bound and I spent hundreds of hours with him and his loving family. We didn’t see Tzvi as a burden, he was just one of the guys who struggled a bit more to get around. I am still close friends with Tzvi, and I know that his life has been made so much easier thanks to the ADA. Our very own daughter Zeesy, has a rare genetic disorder that has created multiple challenges for her development, and the ADA has made her education at our very own Longfellow School, a dream come true.

I believe the ADA passed with bipartisan support because it was an act of positivity. We stood up as Americans for those among us who had disabilities. It wasn’t a bill seeking to oppose anyone. We didn’t have to put anyone down in order to lift those with disabilities up. We simply stood shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart, with those in our society who were born with, or acquired a, challenge and needed our help. It’s something we could, and in my opinion should, ponder and take to heart.

When standing up for an oppressed minority of any sort, when defending the liberties of any group who haven’t been treated equally or when choosing what to share on our Facebook or Twitter feed, we should be asking: Do I must put down one group to lift up another? Do I must degrade one human to bring dignity to another? If we want everyone to recognize the innate value of each woman and man who is created in the image of God, it would be counterintuitive to share, and fight for, that recognition while tarnishing the dignity of others.

Instead of fighting against racism, perhaps we should fight for human dignity and equal respect. Instead of fighting against anti-Semitism, perhaps we should spend our time educating the world about how every individual is “endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Instead of fighting against police officers who abuse their position with acts of brutality, perhaps we should fight for more cultural education for the selfless men and women in blue who defend our communities.

The gain is simple: If the ultimate goal is to live in a harmonious union, it can’t come about if we are fighting “against” something, instead of “for” something. A fragmented country where each societal segment believes they are fighting the “others” who will “destroy” the Constitution and American dream, will result in a demoralized, divided and lost America.

If we can find it in our core, in our collective soul, to fight for something, with time, we can get everyone on board, uniting for a positive change that doesn’t include haranguing neighbors, friends or relatives who feel, and think, differently than we do.

ADA taught us all that we can help those who need us most by standing together to uplift, not to knock down.

Support Local Journalism

To see what else is happening in Gallatin County subscribe to the online paper.

Rabbi Chaim Bruk is co-CEO of Chabad Lubavitch of Montana, father of five adopted children and a lover of humanity, sushi and the great outdoors. He can be reached at