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. 

Posted: Mon, 01/26/2015 - 14:55 | The New Normal

The Ruderman Family Foundation (RFF) announced today that it will award the second annual Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion to Ari Ne’eman, President of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and Member of the President’s National Council on Disability. The $100,000 award recognizes an individual who has made an extraordinary contribution to the inclusion of people with disabilities in the Jewish world and the greater public and is based on past achievements and the potential for future contributions to the field.

Posted: Sat, 01/24/2015 - 18:26 | The New Normal

Each Shabbat from January 10 through January 31, 2015, the Torah portions recited in synagogues recount how God liberated the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. For those who are oppressed, Jews and non-Jews alike, the Exodus recalls the determination of slaves to be free and the compassion of God, the Liberator.

Belief-The First Step Towards Liberation

Before the Exodus, no slave had ever escaped from Egypt. Many Israelite slaves, even as redemption neared, succumbed to despair. An important first step towards liberation is realizing that God is not limited by what we humans may consider "the impossible."

Posted: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 08:44 | The New Normal

At the New Normal, we know that creating a more inclusive Jewish community is a year-round effort, but we also recognize that Jewish Disability Awareness Month (JDAM) in February is a chance to come together as a national community to raise disability awareness and support inclusion efforts. JDAM is a time when we can focus our attention on providing meaningful inclusion and full participation of people with disabilities and their families in Jewish community.

Posted: Mon, 01/19/2015 - 20:04 | The New Normal

When I was a little girl I would dream about what other little Jewish girls would dream about. I played house with my dolls and I would dream about growing up, getting married and having children. But as I got older – as a 12-13 year old – I got stuck in an institution and that was society’s way of telling me that my dreams were not realistic.

Society, back then in the 1960s, was very different than it is today. To lock someone away in a prison-like environment because they’re mentally challenged was common back then.  It was horrible. Places like that don’t exist anymore, Baruch Hashem.

Posted: Wed, 01/14/2015 - 14:34 | The New Normal

Editor's Note: We were thrilled that Alison Auderieth Lobron's blog on "The New Normal" helped her make an incredible connection and launch an exciting new pilot program for Jewish preschoolers!

This blog originally appeared on The View Through Autism Glasses.

For the last few years, I’ve been teaching a Social Pragmatics curriculum at the small, family-run preschool in our neighborhood. For the first couple of years, it was a great job. S was a student there, and our expectation was that G would soon follow. I was teaching about social development, emotional regulation and solving problems with friends … all while using great children’s books to support the lessons. Life was good.

Eventually, S graduated preschool and moved on to elementary. Because of G’s special needs, he only attended the neighborhood school for 2 months.