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Posted: Fri, 03/20/2015 - 11:24 | The New Normal

Last month, many people worked tirelessly to make congregations and communities across our country aware of the capabilities and aspirations of Jews with disabilities. What can we do to transform the message of Jewish disability awareness into meaningful changes that bring us closer to full integration into Jewish life the other eleven months of the year?

Dramatic and widely publicized events have their place, but how long will their message remain effective? The experiences of the Biblical stories of Moses and Elijah remind us that ongoing “small quiet voices” must be heard after the fanfare. Let’s look at some “awareness initiatives” from early Jewish history that can help to guide us.

Posted: Fri, 03/20/2015 - 09:39 | The New Normal

While there is still snow on the ground in parts of the northeast and most people are ready to transition from winter to spring, camp professionals think about summer all year long! We hire staff, recruit campers, host reunions, plan programs and participate in professional development. It is so important to share experiences with other camp professionals and to learn from them.

At Ramah, the camping arm of Conservative Judaism, we are excited to share our experiences in inclusive camping with colleagues from throughout the Jewish camping world.

That's one reason why the National Ramah Tikvah Network is looking forward to hosting an in-person seminar (which will also be presented as a webinar) entitled, “How Inclusive Camping Benefits Typical Campers, Campers with Disabilities, and Camp’s Bottom Line.

Posted: Mon, 03/16/2015 - 10:54 | The New Normal

Passover is coming in just a few weeks! With changes to routines and food, children with special needs may need some extra support for these changes and be able to enjoy the holiday. Here are some easy tip to help your child get ready.

1. Use a calendar to count down the days until Passover.

2. Show your child pictures of friends and family that will be at your Seder. Discuss your relationship with each person. Suggest a possible topic your child can use to start a conversation with each person. 

Posted: Wed, 03/11/2015 - 12:28 | The New Normal

I love being able to give families of students with special needs the opportunity to participate in Jewish milestones and traditions like any other family. This year was the 5th year that we hosted an accessible Purim carnival for our students. Each year, we build a carnival with accommodations and care so that our students will not feel overwhelmed and can participate in some way in all of the activities.

Posted: Wed, 03/04/2015 - 12:18 | The New Normal

Editor's Note: Last spring we shared a blog about the Shefa School written by Director Yoni Schwab.

I just opened an e-mail inviting me to this year’s GISHA conference for Jewish educators entitled “Excellence in Inclusion.” For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, GISHA is a well-known educational conference that is held and organized by the Center for Jewish Special Education at Boston's Hebrew College.  When I read the title I happily thought to myself,  “Yay! A Jewish educators conference focusing on inclusion of kids with disabilities.“ Then I read that the keynote is entitled “To Be Inclusive or Not To Be That Is The Question - Inclusion in Jewish Education, Making it Work and Recognizing When it Doesn’t.” The address is to be given by the Assistant Head of a new Jewish school in Manhattan for children with language-based learning disabilities.

Posted: Tue, 03/03/2015 - 20:05 | The New Normal

Oral deafness may be the most misunderstood of disabilities even though, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America, one in ten people in our country fit this description: that is, they have some degree of hearing loss and do not speak sign language. Almost everyone knows someone who is oral deaf.

Yet, when I say that I am an Open Captioner to people who are deaf or hard of hearing, once the word “deaf” is uttered, most people imagine or mimic a person talking with their hands via American Sign Language (ASL). This familiar image of a deaf person is one of many barriers that prevent a large population of deaf people from gaining access to communication that hearing people take for granted.