Ruderman Family Foundation Names Inclusion Award Winners
07/14/2014 - 11:03
Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer
Debra Cohen, JFS President, and Becky Cisneros at the opening of “Houstonians with Positive Exposure.” Courtesy of Meredith Sega
Debra Cohen, JFS President, and Becky Cisneros at the opening of “Houstonians with Positive Exposure.” Courtesy of Meredith Sega

The Ruderman Family Foundation announced today the five winners of the third annual Ruderman Prize in Inclusion. The Prize honors organizations worldwide who operate innovative programs and provide services that foster the full inclusion of people with disabilities in their local Jewish community.

The winners are: Jewish Vocational Service of Toronto (Toronto, ON), JewishCare Big Brother Big Sister (Sydney, Australia), Bar-Ilan University (Israel), Jewish Family Services of Houston (Houston, TX) and the St. Paul Jewish Community Center (St. Paul, MN). Each winner will receive $50,000 to continue their work and pursue new opportunities for inclusion in their local communities.

“Now in its third year, the Ruderman Prize in Inclusion has truly become an international recognition of excellence for the inclusion of people with disabilities in our worldwide Jewish community,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation.

“This year we have selected organizations from Australia, Canada, Israel and the United States. It is our hope that these awards will inspire Jewish organizations around the world to embrace the inclusion of people with all abilities in our community.”

“Receiving an International Prize for our work is a stunning achievement for JewishCare,” said Claire Vernon, CEO of JewishCare. “By recognizing our passion and commitment for including people with disabilities in our programs, the Prize provides huge encouragement to continue our groundbreaking work.”

Fully inclusive programs ensure that everyone can participate together, without stigma or imposed limitations. The goal of the Prize is to celebrate the winning organizations as inspiration and models which could be replicated elsewhere. The Ruderman Prize in Inclusion is a signature program of the Ruderman Family Foundation, which believes that inclusion and understanding of all people is essential to a fair and flourishing community.

"For almost 30 years the St. Paul JCC has been fully committed to inclusion programming. We work hard to ensure that every single person who walks into our center feels at home, so I really I couldn’t be more proud to be recognized specifically for our inclusion work," said Michael Waldman, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Center of St. Paul. "We don’t think or talk in terms of abilities and disabilities; instead we recognize that every individual has unique abilities and needs, and we embrace that diversity in our programming."

From the outset, the Prize has become an international one, with hundreds of organizations from almost every continent applying. In the past, organizations from Israel, South Africa, Russia, the U.K., Mexico, the U.S. and Argentina have received the award. This year’s winners include programs dedicated to employment, higher education, mentoring, leadership training and full inclusion in communal activities and schools.

“We are thrilled to have been chosen to receive the 2014 Ruderman Prize in Inclusion from the Ruderman Family Foundation. It is an honor to be recognized as a global leader in inclusion within the Jewish Community,” said Lorie Shekter-Wolfson, President & CEO of JVS Toronto. “JVS Toronto has a legacy of serving the Jewish Community and supporting clients, many with barriers who would not otherwise have the opportunities they do today. Our commitment to Tikkun Olam (healing the world) drives our organization’s mission and the work we do. Most importantly, this is a special recognition for the staff who work with the students every day and who make the world a better place for them.”

This year’s winners include:

JewishCare’s Big Brother Big Sister Mentoring Program (Sydney, Australia)- JewishCare’s Big Brother Big Sister Program is a mentoring program for Jewish children through to young people who may be facing challenges and adversity in their lives. The program provides them the opportunity to thrive through the ongoing support and friendship of a big brother/sister mentor. JewishCare has developed strong links with local schools, synagogues and community groups to raise awareness about issues facing young people with a disability, and about the importance of their inclusion into mainstream services.

Bar-Ilan University’s Empowerment Program (Israel)- The Empowerment Program provides students with Intellectual Disabilities the opportunity to participate in college-level academic instruction. The Empowerment Program offers three stages of academic inclusion depending on the students’ level of function, including full integration into standard college courses and the ability to receive college credit for qualified individuals. The program is the first of its kind in Israel and one of a handful of such programs that exist around the world.

Jewish Family Services Alexander Institute for Inclusion (Houston, TX)- The JFS Alexander Institute for Inclusion is a Houston based initiative dedicated to engaging local communities in vital discussions on how to meaningfully include people with disabilities and reduce related stigmas. The Institute develops the leadership skills of key players whose awareness of inclusion brings the conversation (and ultimately action) to the forefront of their work, academic, or communal environments. In its efforts to increase awareness across the board, the Institute uses arts and education programs to change perception and trains leaders to challenge organizations to embrace inclusion in a proactive way.

The Jewish Community Center of the Greater St. Paul Area (St. Paul, MN)- The goal of the St. Paul JCC’s Inclusion and Accessibility Services Program 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 works with participants who need extra support and accommodations in numerous programs, including:  theater, swimming lessons, personal training, fitness programs and more. For the last thirty years, the JCC has been fully committed to inclusive programming.

Jewish Vocational Service of Toronto (Toronto, ON)- JVS Toronto helps people succeed by providing outstanding employment, social and educational services which meet the changing needs of the Jewish community. JVS offers specialized programming for populations with Learning Disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Developmental Disabilities and Mental and Physical Health challenges, helping them find and maintain employment. This year marks the 50th anniversary of JVS’ delivery of psychological services in Toronto Jewish Day Schools, supporting the schools in understanding, effectively teaching and providing a Jewish education to all children, including those with special education needs.

The Ruderman Famiy Foundation believes that inclusion and understanding of all people is essential to a fair and flourishing community. Guided by our Jewish values, we support effective programs, innovative partnerships and a dynamic approach to philanthropy in our core areas of interest: advocating for and advancing the inclusion of people with disabilities throughout the Jewish community; fostering a more nuanced understanding of the American Jewish community among Israeli leaders; and modeling the practice of strategic philanthropy worldwide. The Foundation provides funding, leadership, expertise and insight in both the U.S. and Israel, with offices in both countries.

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