Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer's blog

Seeing The Person, Not The Disability

Most weekends, my thirteen-year-old son George and I go food shopping together. He likes to push the cart, pick out his favorite treats and help me count out pieces of fruit and drop them into bags. He’s also very fast and organized at unpacking our grocery cart.

The author's son George helping unpack groceries. Courtesy of Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer

Announcing The Second Ruderman "Best in Business" Award: Recognizing Companies That Hire People With Disabilities

Last spring, the Ruderman Family Foundation partnered with the Jewish Week Media Group to produce its first Ruderman “Best in Business” supplementrecognizing exemplary businesses that have demonstrated a history of employing people with disabilities, training and supporting them and developing innovative approaches to maximizing employee’s abilities. Ten businesses were selected through a national nomination and review process and were profiled in both a print and online supplement.

Ruderman "Best in Business" Supplement 2015

The Ruderman White Paper: On Police Violence, Media and Disability

Last week, the Ruderman Family Foundation (RFF) released its first “Ruderman White Paper”—a comprehensive, scholarly investigation of media coverage of disability in instances of police violence from 2013 to 2015. Its focus was to expose the lack of coverage on this important issue. New Normal editor Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer spoke with Jay Ruderman, Foundation President, about why the Foundation is supporting this kind of study.

Police Violence. Courtesy of Stephen Melkisethian/Flickr

How Musical-Visual Bar Mitzvah Rituals Communicated My Son’s Essence

On January 18, 2016, my son George Chaim became Bar Mitzvah at our synagogue, Mishkan Shalom. Like my fellow parents who have experienced their adolescent children going through this intensive rite-of-passage, I am still kvelling, sometimes teary-eyed, as I face the reality that we have already experienced thirteen years of his—and my—life together.

The author with her son, George. Courtesy of Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer

Decision 2016: Disability Scorecards

Editor's Note: As the primary season begins, we bring you this exclusive interview with Jennifer Laslzo Mizrahi, President of RespectAbilityUSA, an important organization working on disability rights. Jennifer is on the campaign trail advocating for people with disabilities and answered our questions via email.

NN: Can you describe RespectAbilityUSA's mission in terms of inclusion in the Jewish community and why following the presidential race is connected to your mission?

JLM: Our work is all about improving the lives of people with disabilities. There is a big role for Jewish institutions in that work, and we are deeply committed to Jewish inclusion. But ultimately the disability agenda is a civil rights agenda and an anti-poverty agenda. And it’s far bigger than just the Jewish community. And the only way to move those agendas is to ensure that it is on the “to do list” of the next president of the United States. We want our issues to be center stage in the first 100 days of the next president's first term, and beyond.

The RespectAbility Report. Courtesy of Jennifer Laslzo Mizrahi

Preparing For Our Son's Bar Mitzvah Is A Coming-Of-Age Moment For Us, Too

Editor's Note: This blog originally appeared on newsworks.

In less than a week, my son, George, will turn 13, and like generations of Jewish boys before him, he will become a bar mitzvah. 

For George, who is non-verbal and on the more severe end of the autism spectrum, his bar mitzvah service will be carefully modified. We've taught him how to select his Torah verses from an app on his iPad that he uses to communicate. Rather than a speech about his Torah portion, he is painting a collage about it. He will deliver prayers from his front row seat, as standing before the congregation would cause him sensory overwhelm.

As we've prepared for his service, I've questioned my choices.

The author with her son, George. Courtesy of Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer

Ruderman Inclusion Summit: "Including Humans In Human Activity"

More than 550 activists in the field of inclusion for people with disabilities from around the world came together for the Ruderman Family Foundation’s first-ever international Inclusion Summit, which took place in Boston on November 1st and 2nd.

Award-winning journalist John Hockenberry. Courtesy of Noam Galai

UJA-Federation Sharefest Focuses On Inclusion Of People With Disabilities

On Monday, October 19, 2015, UJA-Federation of New York hosted a day of learning for synagogue professionals and lay leaders to discuss, share and learn from experts and each other on how to make synagogues more open and welcoming to people with disabilities. The workshop was an opportunity to build skills and to learn about new innovative models to make synagogues more accessible and inclusive to all. The program included presentations from professionals from RespectAbility USA, The Jewish Inclusion Project, the URJ and Ramapo for Children, learning from a compelling self-advocate working in a synagogue community, as well as time for round-table discussions and brainstorming sessions with synagogue professionals leaders and topic experts.

Bageltoons: Inclusive Cartooning

Over the last few weeks, our New Normal blog has been featuring reflections and perspectives on the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

We know that employment is one area in which people with disabilities are still struggling. Last June, The Ruderman Family Foundation, in partnership with The Jewish Week Media Group, proudly announced the recipients of the inaugural "Best in Business" Award. This national competition highlights North American businesses, large corporations and family-owned, who have shown exemplary practices in hiring, training and supporting people with disabilities.

“Everyone has a fundamental right to be included in our society and the best way to achieve full inclusion is through meaningful employment,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation.

Bagletoons celebrates inclusive employment. Courtesy of Bageltoons LLC
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