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Posted: Thu, 02/05/2015 - 13:45 | The New Normal

Editor’s Note: This article appeared in the Fall, 2014 issue of  The Journal of Jewish Communal Service, and is disseminated with the permission of its publisher, JPRO Network.  Subscriptions at JPRO.org.

We are sharing this primer in three parts; first the introduction, followed by the action steps.

After centuries of persecution, we Jews have become deeply committed to developing one asset over almost everything else—our minds. This asset is the one thing we can take with us to a new country, and it has contributed to our survival.

This devotion to education and achievement has been good for us and for the world as is evidenced by the many Nobel Prizes won by Jews for discovering lifesaving breakthroughs.

But what does that mean for those of us in the community who are not destined for acceptance at the top colleges or to win a Nobel Prize? What about the child who is born with an intellectual, learning, mental health, or physical disability or the individual who acquires a disability?

Posted: Thu, 02/05/2015 - 10:08 | The New Normal

As part of Jewish Disability Awareness Month 2012, my daughter Shaina, now 11, addressed a group of third through sixth graders at Temple Israel Center in White Plains. This is what she said:

“Hi, my name is Shaina and I am 8 years old.  I have a brother and his name is Avi. He is 11 years old. Avi loves to play like all other kids but he plays in a different way. He loves the things that other kids love, like music, videos, games and other things. But Avi behaves differently and learns differently because he has autism. This means that his brain works differently and it is hard for him to make friends and understand like other kids his age. 

Posted: Tue, 02/03/2015 - 12:55 | The New Normal

Posted: Sun, 02/01/2015 - 19:45 | The New Normal

Editor's Note: This blog originally appeared on www.jkidphilly.org

Most stories about inclusion in the Jewish community don’t involve singing in a Baptist church, but this one does.

For the last 25 years, members from my Conservative shul Beth Am Israel have come together annually with our local counterparts from a Reform temple and a predominantly African American Baptist church to sing in fellowship as the Unity Choir. We honor the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy together for the holiday weekend, but our collaborative partnership endures throughout the year.

Posted: Thu, 01/29/2015 - 21:16 | The New Normal

Ever gone on a long car trip with your children when one of them breaks the tedium of the road by piping up, “Are we there yet?”

The adorableness of this tyke wears off after they have asked the question three or four times. Your first response, “No honey bug, we’re not,” quickly morphs to a teeth clenching “No!” before you realize that little ones can’t read road maps or the GPS, and really, they are bored, tired of being in the car and maybe a little excited about getting to the destination.

Since February 2009, the first time the Jewish Special Education International Consortium members planned the first Jewish Disability Awareness Month, an increasing number of Jewish organizations and communities have hit the road, raising awareness about the way Jews with disabilities and those who love them have been practically invisible in Jewish life.

Posted: Tue, 01/27/2015 - 13:45 | The New Normal

The events of my son’s Bar Mitzvah day don't begin to tell the story of how Max arrived at this moment.  Nor do they tell the story of the special connection that he, and we, have developed with the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue congregation, and the gratitude we feel toward this place. 

Same as many young adult Jews, I hadn't felt the urgency to choose a synagogue until we knew that we were going to be parents. But once we did know, I diligently did the full tour of upper Manhattan's Reform synagogues and settled on Stephen Wise. 

Max was born on Erev Rosh Hashanah. Having arrived over five weeks premature, Max spent the first nine days of his life down at Roosevelt Hospital before we could bring him home.