"Newsletter – September 2011" table of contents
NO JEWS ALLOWED
By Marc Dubin, Esquire
Imagine that you sought help from the police after being beaten by your husband, only to find that you were told that you could not receive their services because you are Jewish.
Imagine that you sought the services of the domestic violence program but are told that you could not receive their services because you are Jewish.
Imagine that you sought the services of the Red Cross during a Hurricane but are told that you could not receive their services because you are Jewish.
Imagine that you are the victim of rape, and sought the services of the rape treatment service but are told that you could not receive their services because you are Jewish.
Imagine that you desperately need medical care but are told that you could not see the doctor because you are Jewish.
Imagine that you went shopping, and are unable to go into a grocery store because you are Jewish.
And imagine that you seek out the services of an attorney, and are denied services because you are Jewish.
You would be outraged, and hurt. You would find allies to join you in protest. You would seek to have anti-discrimination laws enforced. You would consider suing. You would wonder how in this day and age such discrimination could occur.
Every day, people with disabilities seek the services of law enforcement, domestic violence programs, Red Cross Shelters, rape treatment programs, health care providers, businesses, attorneys, and others, and are denied services because they have a disability. Architectural barriers that should not exist remain. Sign language interpreters are not provided. Policies that should be changed are not changed, and these policies prevent people with disabilities from using the services they need. Written materials are not offered in alternative formats.
Service animals are excluded.
If you are a person with a disability, these scenarios are all too familiar. You recognize these denials for what they are – civil rights violations. These denials are as offensive, as hurtful, as harmful as signs saying No Jews Allowed.
My family understands this all too well. I am Jewish. When my parents were growing up, they were kicked out of school, for being Jewish. Their parents were no longer allowed to work, because they were Jewish. They were beaten up by their neighbors, because they were Jewish. They could not shop in the neighborhood grocery stores, because they were Jewish. And, they were arrested, along with every other member of their family, because they were Jewish.
Yes, it was another time and place. It was Poland, and Hitler was coming to power. Discrimination was all around them, and grew, and grew.
I believe that I am well aware of the cost of social injustice and of the abuse of power. My parents instilled in me an awareness of the importance of public service, the cost of prejudice and abuse of power, and of the debt I owe.
Both of my parents came to the United States in 1952, from Lodz, Poland. My parents were both survivors of Hitler’s concentration camps, and were the only members of their respective families to survive. (They each had 7 brothers and sisters) Before the war, Lodz had the second largest Jewish community in Europe. As of 1939, there were 230,000 Jews in Lodz. The Germans moved them all into one area of the city, and walled it off. Eventually, an additional 25,000 people were brought in (20,000 Jews, and 5,000 Gypsies). The Germans then systematically starved and killed them.
Beginning in January of 1942, the Germans began transporting Jews from Lodz to the Chelmno death camp, at a rate of approximately 1,000 a day. Within 3 weeks, over 10,000 people had been transported. Between February and April of 1942, over 34,000 more were taken away and killed. These deportations continued month after month. In August 1944, the ghetto was closed, and all remaining residents were transported by train to Auschwitz.
My parents and some members of their families were among this group.
As of 1944, of the original 250,000 Jews in Lodz, 30,000 were still alive. Shortly before the end of the war, on January 18, 1945, the Germans removed 66,000 Jews from Auschwitz, and in an effort to avoid discovery by the Soviet Army, which was advancing toward the camp, marched them in the snow for days, and shot them as they marched, trying to destroy the evidence of what they had done. My father was on this death march, but escaped by leading a group of prisoners into the forest, emerging only when the Soviet Army arrived.
By the time they were liberated from Auschwitz at the end of the war, in January 1945, only 15,000 of the original 250,000 Jews in Lodz had survived. An estimated 1,500,000 Jews were killed at Auschwitz. All of my parents’ families, including their parents, their grandparents, their cousins, their uncles, their aunts, their sisters, and their brothers, were killed.
Upon their liberation from Auschwitz, my parents were sent to a Displaced Persons camp, where they were kept for seven years. My sister was born in and spent the first six years of her life in the Displaced Persons Camp. In 1952, my parents emigrated to the United States. I tell you this because it is essential that we understand that the discrimination we address on behalf of people with disabilities is about civil rights, and about what we as a nation stand for when it comes to ensuring equal opportunity. When someone in a wheelchair is denied access to shelter, or access to government services, or access to civic life, they are experiencing discrimination. When someone who is deaf or hard of hearing is denied access to health care because a doctor refuses to pay for a qualified sign language interpreter, they are experiencing discrimination. When someone who is blind is denied access to written materials in accessible format, they are experiencing discrimination.
Let’s not be unclear about this. The denial of civil rights is the first step toward seeing people with disabilities as inferior, and the first step to allowing the kind of thinking that can lead us down a very dangerous path. When the Nazis came to power, the first group killed was people with disabilities. It is essential that we understand the parallels, and that when we see discrimination, we stand up to it, and that we ally ourselves with its victims. We need not see signs saying “No People with Disabilities Allowed” to understand that discrimination is occurring, and that we need to do what we can, what we must, to remove those invisible, yet powerful signs.
Lack of intent is not the test. The test is whether the discrimination occurs, and whether we have the will to overcome the discrimination. I believe we do, if we work together, and if we have the will to identify the discrimination for what it is.
Reproduction of this article is
Marc Dubin, Esq.
Director of Advocacy
Center for Independent Living of South Florida
Chair, Florida Bar Disability Law Committee
Former Senior Trial Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice 1993-2005, www.ada.gov
Former Special Counsel, Office on Violence Against Women, USDOJ
Founder & Executive Director, CAVNET www.cavnet.org