Jewish Community

Sam Gelfand: Speaking Out On Asperger Syndrome, Bullying and Jewish Community

Editor's Note: I was delighted to be an audience member last spring when Sam Gelfand, a teenager from Florida, presented to a group of Jewish educators at Boston's Hebrew College about his experiences living with Asperger Syndrome. In the last few years, Sam has spoken to schools, synagogues, camps and other Jewish organizations, sharing his first-hand experiences of living with Asperger Syndrome. Sam is an incredibly engaging speaker and would love to share his powerful message with your community.

NN: Sam, since you were 12 years old, you have been speaking to communities about what it's like to live with Aspergers. Were you initially afraid to speak in front of audiences? What got you through it?

SG: Believe it or not, I have never gotten stage fright. If anything, I feel that the pressure of speaking in front of a live audience actually forces me to do better.

Synagogues In NYC Too Big To Lose Dues

Is New York too big for the increasingly popular voluntary dues model? Local congregations weigh in.

04/08/2015
Staff Writer

At the beginning of January, board members of Temple Beth Abraham, a Reform synagogue in Tarrytown, met in the president’s living room to discuss a hot topic these days: synagogue dues.

Beth Abraham Rabbi David Holtz and synagogue president Herb Baer look at plans for new Tarrytown building.  Michael Datikash/JW

Ruderman Family Foundation Announces $250,000 Global Innovators In Inclusion Competition

The Ruderman Family Foundation announced today the launch of the fourth annual Ruderman Prize in Inclusion global competition. The Prize aims to recognize organizations around the world who have demonstrated their commitment to the full inclusion of people with disabilities into the Jewish community through innovative programs and services. The $250,000 prize will be split equally by five organizations.

“Innovative organizations in the global Jewish community are leading the way in promoting the full inclusion of people with disabilities in our society,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation.

Jewish Inclusion Made Easy and Inexpensive! Part 3

Editor’s Note: This article appeared in the Fall, 2014 issue of  The Journal of Jewish Communal Service, and is disseminated with the permission of its publisher, JPRO Network.  Subscriptions at JPRO.org. We are sharing this primer in three parts; to see parts one and two,click here.

Budget the Time and Money That It Will Take to Do It Right. Inclusion is a lot less expensive than most people think, but it takes the right team with the right training to do it effectively. To ensure success and to develop an accurate budget, camps/schools/synagogues need to know how much funds are needed to have the right staff in place, give them the training needed to make them effective, and make the needed accommodations to the physical plant.

#JDAM15

Intermarriage, Sledding And That Big, Scary Tree

If we create the right kind of community, intermarriage is not synonymous with assimilation.

02/05/2015

Last week, during New York’s non-historic blizzard, I took a stroll through snowy Brooklyn and reminisced about the winters of my childhood, when my family would sled down the hills of our uncle’s yard. I recall once when my mom pointed out to me a solitary tree on the hill, warning me to steer clear of it for my own safety; inevitably I slammed into it or narrowly missed every time. Was I such a terribly uncoordinated navigator? Maybe. But it was just as likely that when the tree was identified to me as dangerous, I stopped thinking about the rest of the slope and became fixated on it. And with my eyes fearfully glued to the tree, where else would the sled take me?

Fear not the tree. Fotolia

Jewish Inclusion Made Easy and Inexpensive! Part 1

Editor’s Note: This article appeared in the Fall, 2014 issue of  The Journal of Jewish Communal Service, and is disseminated with the permission of its publisher, JPRO Network.  Subscriptions at JPRO.org.

We are sharing this primer in three parts; first the introduction, followed by the action steps.

After centuries of persecution, we Jews have become deeply committed to developing one asset over almost everything else—our minds. This asset is the one thing we can take with us to a new country, and it has contributed to our survival.

This devotion to education and achievement has been good for us and for the world as is evidenced by the many Nobel Prizes won by Jews for discovering lifesaving breakthroughs.

But what does that mean for those of us in the community who are not destined for acceptance at the top colleges or to win a Nobel Prize? What about the child who is born with an intellectual, learning, mental health, or physical disability or the individual who acquires a disability?

Jewish Disability Awareness Month: Are We There Yet?

Ever gone on a long car trip with your children when one of them breaks the tedium of the road by piping up, “Are we there yet?”

The adorableness of this tyke wears off after they have asked the question three or four times. Your first response, “No honey bug, we’re not,” quickly morphs to a teeth clenching “No!” before you realize that little ones can’t read road maps or the GPS, and really, they are bored, tired of being in the car and maybe a little excited about getting to the destination.

Since February 2009, the first time the Jewish Special Education International Consortium members planned the first Jewish Disability Awareness Month, an increasing number of Jewish organizations and communities have hit the road, raising awareness about the way Jews with disabilities and those who love them have been practically invisible in Jewish life.

Alan Gross Released From Cuba

United States has reportedly secured prisoner's release as part of a swap.

12/17/2014
Staff Writer

Five years after he was arrested in Cuba on a charge of providing illegal technical assistance to the country’s small Jewish community, New York-born Alan Gross, who inadvertently became one of the world’s most prominent Jewish political prisoners, is a free man.

Supporters gather at a Dec. 3 rally calling for Gross' release. Getty Images

Institute On Disabilities And Inclusion: Let Go Of The Old, Transform The Community

Editor's Note: This blog originally appeared at www.inclusioninnovations.com.

The second cohort of the Jewish Leadership Institute on Disabilities and Inclusion (JLIDI) convenes at the Pearlstone Center near Baltimore for four days of intense study this week. They will be treated to compelling and insightful presentations by our excellent faculty, bond with and learn from each other and have time to reflect on individual leadership challenges.

When I returned from the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities (NLCDD) Leadership Institute, on which the JLIDI is based, in 2009, I was inspired by the concept of Person-Centered Thinking, in which all people have positive control over the lives they have chosen for themselves.

Faculty members Sarah Blitzstein, Rabbi Lynne Landsberg and Shelly Christensen. Courtesy of Shelly Christensen

Inclusive Congregations: Justice, Not Charity

When our son was a newborn, another mom of a child with Down syndrome suggested that we see “Praying with Lior.” Deeply moved by the movie, I turned to my husband and told him that we needed to find a synagogue so that our Julian would have a faith community that knows, loves and supports him. We were not interested in “tolerance” or even “acceptance.” We wanted to be part of a congregation that celebrated difference and embraced members with disabilities as part of its fabric. 

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