Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer's blog

Slingshot Guide Highlights Work On Inclusion

Slingshot has released Slingshot '14 – '15, its tenth annual guide to North America’s most innovative Jewish organizations this week. Over the last decade, the Guide has become a go-to resource for volunteers, activists and donors looking for new opportunities and projects in the Jewish community.

This year, Slingshot did not produce a supplement focusing on disability and inclusion, but instead integrated a number of organizations whose mission includes supporting people with disabilities and their families into the main guide.

JFN Seeks Jewish Resources On Disability

The Jewish Funders Network disabilities peer network, made up of funders who are working to build more inclusive and supportive communities, is commissioning a guidebook on how to use Jewish texts to talk about disability rights and inclusion. JFN plans to distribute the guide to Jewish and international human rights communities.

Jewish Funders Network

Mindfully Preparing For The High Holy Days

Editor's Note: We recently a new study that shows how mindfulness practice reduces stress, anxiety and depression in parents of children with special needs. Rabbi Yael Levy integrates mindfulness practice into Jewish worship and offers suggestions for how we can use mindfulness to prepare for the High Holy Days.

Q: What is mindfulness?

A Way In Rosh Hashanah E-Cards. Courtesy of A Way In

TIPTOE 2014 Video Contest: Through Our Eyes

TIPTOE (The Inclusion Project: Through Our Eyes), a partnership between the Ruderman Family Foundation, the Jewish Foundation For Camp and the National Ramah Tikvah Network Of Programs For Campers With Disabilities, has just announced a disabilities inclusion-themed video contest. The contest is open to anyone who participated as a camper or college-aged staff member in any North American Jewish summer camp program in 2014.

Cooking Our Way Through The Holidays

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I spent five amazing days at Tikvah Family Camp at Ramah in the Poconos, connecting with other families who have children with a range of special needs and enjoying camp life. During the mornings, children are paired with “Chavereem” who lead them in sports, art, swimming and other activities while parents get time to themselves. One of my highlights from this year’s camp was when I met up with my 11-year-old son, George, who has autism, and his lovely Chavera Davida at lunch. “George LOVED cooking!” Davida exclaimed. “He was so focused and into it. He did a great job.”

I smiled. George and I have been cooking together since he was four, when a cognitive-behavioral therapist recommended cooking as a way for us to engage in back and forth sharing and connecting. I thought she was crazy; at that time, George’s behavior was so hyper that he might only focus on a preferred activity for a minute at a time.

The author cooking with her children. Courtesy of Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer

I Am Able: Share YOUR Selfies!

The New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities has mounted an "I Am Able"? campaign to document and celebrate the abilities of the individuals that the office serves. People with disabilities are encouraged to submit pictures and share accomplishments in their own words.

Ruderman Prize Profile: Bar-Ilan University's "Empowerment Program"

Editor's Note: In July, the Ruderman Family Foundation awarded five prizes to agencies across the world that are making the Jewish community into a more inclusive one. The New Normal will profile each of these amazing agencies over the next month. Click here to read previous profiles.

Bar-Ilan University's Empowerment ("Otzmot") Program is among five international winners (and the only Israeli winner) of the third annual Ruderman Prize in Inclusion, honoring organizations worldwide that operate innovative programs and provide services that foster the full inclusion of people with disabilities in their local Jewish community.

Prof. Hefziba Lifshitz and Students. Courtesy of David Garb

Ruderman Prize Profile: Thirty Years Of Inclusion And Going Strong At The St. Paul JCC

Editor's Note: In July, the Ruderman Family Foundation awarded five prizes to agencies across the world that are making the Jewish community into a more inclusive one. The New Normal will profile each of these amazing agencies over the next month. Click here to read last week’s profile.

The goal of the St. Paul JCC’s Inclusion and Accessibility Services Program (IAS) is to provide children, teens and adults with physical, cognitive and developmental disabilities the opportunity to be welcomed and fully participate in any and all programs offered by the JCC. The staff work with participants who need extra support and accommodations in numerous programs including: theater, swimming lessons, personal training, fitness programs, adult and youth programs. They have been dedicated to inclusive programming for the last thirty years. The program began in 1984 when parents came together and asked the JCC to create inclusive programming for their children, twelve in total, who had physical and developmental disabilities. One year later, the program doubled to support twenty-four children and has steadily grown in the years since.

A JCC participant paints an Elijah's Cup. Courtesy of the St. Paul JCC
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