Editor's Note: Thanks to our friends at the Foundation for Jewish Camp for coordinating this series of blogs from camp. More voices to come!
We have all heard that Jewish summer camp is one of the most valuable experiences a parent can give their child to ensure a strong Jewish foundation. If you think of it as a construction project, the earth underneath the foundation is the community and together, this community builds the foundation they share. As each child grows into an adult, the shared experience of community-building in a Jewish context continues to strengthen his or her Jewish foundation.
Editor's Note: This month, 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.
JewishCare’s Big Brother Big Sister (BBBS) Program mentors Jewish children and young adults who may be facing challenges and adversity in their lives. Based in Sydney, the program helps these youth, about a third of whom have a disabilitiy, 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.
JewishCare staff members speak at local Jewish high schools about the BBBS program, and about how having a positive mentor can make a big difference for all kids, including those with a disability.
Last week, I found myself wearing an oversized camp T-shirt, sitting on the back of a bus headed up to the mountains for a field trip with a bunch of squirmy but excited campers. It was a bit of an "How did I get here?" moment. After all, I am a full time occupational therapist working in early intervention, not an educator looking to bring in a summer salary. I paid my dues working as a junior counselor, then a counselor at numerous camps … but that was 18 years ago. I have two children of my own now, both campers themselves.
It is my commitment to inclusion for Jewish children with disabilities and differences of all stripes in all aspects of religious life that led me to pack my own water bottle and sunscreen and venture onto "the field," so to speak.
Editor's Note: Yesterday we featured another voice from Israel, "Sleepless in Jerusalem." We appreciate Miriam and Beth bringing us their perspectives during this very hard time.
This summer, noises make me jumpy. “What if I miss a siren,” I wonder to myself, thinking of a friend who lives in a neighborhood where she depends on friends to SMS her when the siren blares. The loudspeakers just don’t work right.
What if I’m not near Akiva, our youngest who has special needs, when the siren blows? Happily, he’s coped, even one Saturday afternoon when the siren blew during B’nai Akiva, the local youth movement not known for its organization and planning.
Editor's Note: Miriam's reflection originally appeared on the Shutaf blog. We want to share the experiences living through the sirens for people with disabilities and will feature another voice from Jerusalem next week.
Parents of children, teens and adults with disabilities see the world through a very different prism – a unique prism of worry. We worry about different and more things than the rest of you do. The things that are obvious, attainable and easy for typical children can be huge obstacles for a child or young adult with special needs. Other 18-year-olds are moving on to a new stage in life – completing a gap year, going into the army or national service. At our house, we’re trying to get Vinnie to serve herself lunch.
This latest surreal situation in Israel is scary, especially for Israelis in the south. I can’t imagine. While Jerusalem has been relatively quiet, Vinnie was outdoors during one siren and the loud noise freaked her out. She’s been uptight since then, has had trouble falling asleep and bad dreams.
It was everywhere. Madrid, Paris, New York, Moscow - everyone was watching. I’m talking about the FIFA World Cup, of course. According to statistics, a full 1/9 of the planet watches the proceedings of this tournament. We’re talking here about hundreds of millions of people. From distant corners of the globe, people watch the same ball bouncing on the screen and cheer for their favorite teams.
Well, there's another global event coming up, though not on the scale of the World Cup. Next month, boys are flying in from Israel, from Russia, from Germany and from all over the United States to New York City. What for, you ask? To participate in a Jewish camp. For many of them, it will be their very first time living and experiencing Judaism among their peers.
I am proud to be behind the planning of this unique program for Jewish deaf boys between 8-16 years old.