Posted: Sun, 02/22/2015 - 08:26 | Posted by: Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer | The New Normal
Yozma

The Nativ College Leadership Program is launching a new track on Nativ called “Yozma.” Yozma will be an inclusion track for college-bound Jewish young adults, aged 18-21, with mild cognitive and social challenges. 

Posted: Sat, 02/21/2015 - 07:36 | Posted by: Michelle Steinhart | The New Normal
The author's children. Courtesy of Michelle Steinhart

The concept of inclusion seems important to most people. On a gut level, most people would agree strongly that “it’s the right thing to do.”  With that said, are we ready to change our behavior to ensure inclusion can be a reality?

Posted: Sat, 02/14/2015 - 14:12 | Posted by: Rabbi Margot Stein | The New Normal

Editor's Note: Thanks to Jewish Learning Venture for sharing this important blog.

My son, a high functioning child with autism, did not speak until he was four and is only now, in 7th grade, learning to read independently. Yet he chanted from the Torah, recited the Sh’ma, helped lead the service, and delivered a D’var Torah that was unique in several important ways. He was thrilled, and so were we.

How can you make your child’s celebration equally memorable?

1). Know your child and make accommodations accordingly. Do not hesitate to ask your rabbi to work with you on this.  If your child is outgoing as our son is, and can handle a lot of guests, fine. If she is fearful of crowds or has performance anxiety, keep it intimate.

Posted: Sat, 02/14/2015 - 13:58 | Posted by: Frances Victory | The New Normal
Dr. Frances Victory

In honor of Jewish Disability Awareness Month (#JDAM15), I had the privilege of interviewing Rabbi Robert Levine, Rabbi Benjamin Spratt and Rabbi Leora Kaye from Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York City. These three amazing religious leaders plus Mrs. Gina Levine and Dr. Nancy Crown have worked together to develop Shireinu, holiday worship services for families of individuals with special needs.

The Shireinu program was started in June 2008 when Dr. Nancy Crown mentioned to Rabbi Levine’s wife that she felt her daughter with special needs did not fit in at Rodeph Sholom and therefore could only attend services on the high holidays.

Posted: Thu, 02/12/2015 - 18:23 | Posted by: Howard Blas | The New Normal
IDF Soldiers. Courtesy of Howard Blas

On a recent visit to a Pikud HaOref, Home Front Command base in Ramle, 14 miles southeast of Tel Aviv, a soldier tells me a very animated story about his role in Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s military operation in Gaza: “My job was to copy the papers for our soldiers to drop from planes over Gaza this summer!” The soldier, in uniform with his bright orange beret on his shoulder, happens to have Down Syndrome. 

He is very excited about his job in the base print shop. Another soldier with a visible disability proudly recounts the visit to the base the previous day by IDF Chief of Staff, Benny Ganz.  “We saluted him and gave him a present — olive oil that we made on the base!” 

Twenty five other soldiers with disabilities perform similarly important jobs each day on the base. If Tiran Attia and other visionaries have their way, Tzahal, or the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), may become a “game changer” in Israel for inclusion and for shaping attitudes about people with disabilities.

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