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Posted: Tue, 03/01/2016 - 21:58 | The New Normal

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) will build on the successful launch of the Ruderman Inclusion Action Community initiative to transform Conservative congregations into truly inclusive communities for people with disabilities, thanks to continuing support from the Ruderman Family Foundation (RFF) in the form of a $375,000 three-year grant.

Through the grant, USCJ will continue to provide expertise and consulting to its affiliated congregations to develop comprehensive visions and action plans on inclusion. 

Posted: Mon, 02/29/2016 - 07:38 | The New Normal

Nearly sixteen years ago my synagogue hired me as our Religious School’s Special Needs Consultant. Within a year that title changed to Special Needs Coordinator. A subtle shift, but one that we believe demonstrated our commitment to the permanence of our program.  Today I serve as a full-time Education Director with oversight of our inclusion efforts. But if anyone asks me what I do for a living, my reply is typically that I am a Jewish Educator and a Jewish Inclusion Expert.

Posted: Wed, 02/24/2016 - 12:33 | The New Normal

When my boss, Dana Marlowe, shared her blog post about emplyment and mental disability, I had mixed emotions. This isn’t rare for me. As someone with a mental disability, I’m used to sifting through varying moods and thoughts to determine the answer the deceptively simple question: How do you feel?

Coming from the perspective of an employee whom many other employers might not have hired, I’m grateful to work for a company that values my contributions. On the other hand, I worry for others who might not have found their fit in a supportive workplace.

Posted: Tue, 02/23/2016 - 07:23 | The New Normal

My brother is my rebbe and my greatest teacher. He has taught me that our greatest passion must be compassion. He has taught me what it means to be a loving, kind, and sensitive individual. Born with Fragile X, a genetic condition that causes intellectual disability, behavioral and learning challenges, Mike has never allowed his disabilities to define him. In fact, he continually defies it. Most importantly, Mike has shown me and everyone around him what it means to be resilient, to have true grit. He is the only one who decides what he can and cannot do.

Posted: Wed, 02/17/2016 - 08:38 | The New Normal

At New Jersey’s Camp Marcella, where many blind children spend a few weeks each summer, I used to sprint down the track, with no fear of veering into trees or other obstacles. I held a rope suspended vertically from a loop on a wire high above, which followed the course of the track. If I began to stray, the rope, zipping along the guidewire, would steer me back onto the track. 

Posted: Mon, 02/15/2016 - 15:45 | The New Normal

This is the second blog advocating against the term “special needs” that I’ve posted on the New Normal blog.  I’m writing a second article on this subject because I’m speaking on behalf of the majority of disability activists who agree that this term actually defeats our cause. I will take every opportunity to discourage its use until it’s no longer part of our vocabulary, because “special needs” separates us out from the mainstream (special) and it reinforces the charity model (needs) against which the disability community has been struggling for many decades.