Inclusion

The High Holidays: Time To Open The Gates

As I remember them growing up, our family’s yom tov (holiday) celebrations looked like this: With the dining room table covered in a beautiful white tablecloth, elegant china and silverware, and brightly polished candle sticks and Kiddush cups, it was ready for the matzah ball soup, the round, sweet, freshly-baked challah, honey chicken, and the rest of the festive meal. My brother and I, busy blowing our toy shofars, looked forward to dipping our apples in honey.

Welcome. Courtesy of the URJ

Success: Supported Employment At Camp Ramah

We are happy to share this interview between Howard Blas and Alex Cohen, a participant in a supported employment program at Camp Ramah in New England. Some graduates of the vocational training  program for young adults with disabilities are hired for positions at the camp and are supported by job-site supervisors and our director of staff support. The program also provides assistance to some staff members who have not previously attended camp but would benefit from a similar level of support. 

Alex Cohen. Courtesy of Howard Blas

The Synagogue Inclusion Project: Park Slope Jewish Center

Since March of 2015, six New York area synagogues have been focused on tangibly weaving the inclusion of people with disabilities in the fabric of their communities. UJA-Federation of New York, with funding from the Leo Oppenheimer & Flora Oppenheimer Haas Foundation, piloted The Synagogue Inclusion Project, a groundbreaking 18-month pilot program to create a replicable, sustainable approach to integrating members of our community with disabilities. The pilot synagogue cohort included synagogues large and small, Conservative and Reform, urban and suburban. What bound them together was a stated desire to be inclusive of people with disabilities, but an underlying doubt that they were having the desired impact.

Community at Park Slope Jewish Center. Courtesy of Aileen Heiman

When The School Bus Stops Coming: "Falling Off A Cliff"

I have feared the day the school bus stops coming for my son Noah for so long that I’m not sure I recall a time when that fear didn’t dog me. In fact, it feels as if I’ve held onto that fear as long as I’ve held onto him. The day is now officially a year away, since Noah started his last year of high school September 1, 2016. 

I recall vividly, with each of my kids, the promise embedded in each first day of school. I picked out their clothes, put little backpacks with some favorite character emblazoned on it over their shoulders, and walked with them to pre-school. Then I brought them to the bus stop for their first day of kindergarten. Everything felt so full of hope. One son graduated from college a year ago. My daughter just started her junior year of high school. Noah will finish his sixth year of high school this year and then go off a cliff.

The author's son, Noah. Courtesy of Nina Mogilnik

Announcing the 2016 Ruderman Best in Business Award Winners

For the second year, the Ruderman Family Foundation has partnered with The Jewish Week Media Group to select exemplary companies that train, hire and support employees with disabilities for the Ruderman Best in Business Award.

Starting at the end of March 2016, we embarked on a social media campaign to solicit nominees for companies across America that train, support and hire people with disabilities. Over an eight-week period, nominations came in from employers, advocates, customers and people with disabilities, explaining why their nominee should receive this honor. 

Ruderman "Best in Business" Award 2016. Courtesy of the Ruderman Family Foundation

The Synagogue Inclusion Project: Park Avenue Synagogue

Since March of 2015, six New York area synagogues have been focused on tangibly weaving the inclusion of people with disabilities in the fabric of their communities. UJA-Federation of New York, with funding from the Leo Oppenheimer & Flora Oppenheimer Haas Foundation, piloted The Synagogue Inclusion Project, a groundbreaking 18-month pilot program to create a replicable, sustainable approach to integrating members of our community with disabilities. The pilot synagogue cohort included synagogues large and small, Conservative and Reform, urban and suburban. What bound them together was a stated desire to be inclusive of people with disabilities, but an underlying doubt that they were having the desired impact.

Affixing mezuzah at accessible heights. Courtesy of Shelley Cohen

Gov. Markell: America’s Jewish Governor, Standing Up For Disabilities

While there are multiple Jews in Congress and the Senate, only one Jew serves at the chief executive of their state: Governor Jack Markell of Delaware. He is term-limited, so sadly his tenure in this office will end soon. He is a major hero in public life, so it’s worth your time to look at his expansive contributions.

The author and other RespectAbility board members with Gov. Markell. Courtesy of Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi

Registering Our Son To Vote: Disability, Standing Up And Election 2016

This has been a grueling political season, full of rancor and too much ugliness to catalogue.  Some days, I just want to hide under the covers and pretend it’s all a bad dream. But then I think about my children. 

Having children is, at least for me, the ultimate act of cockeyed optimism. There are so many reasons to be fearful of bringing children into the world, of exposing them to the awfulness to which human beings can lower themselves. But then of course there is the profound, unparalleled opportunity to try to shape another human being by the values and beliefs you hold dear, and that is in many ways irresistible. Not to mention sometimes just flat out joyous fun.

The author's family. Courtesy of Nina Mogilnik

The Massacre Of People With Disability: What Parents Can Do

Until yesterday, I only felt sadness and despair about about the massacre of people with disability in Japan on July 26th. Then I realized there was something I could do. You, too. Actually, you're likely already doing it.

The attacker stabbed 19 people to death as they slept at the Tsuki Yamayuri-en facility in Japan and wounded 26 others. The suspect, a 26-year-old former staffer, had planned the killings, Reuters noted. In fact, he'd stated that he was going to do the deed in two letters given to the speaker of the lower house of parliament in February.

Memorial for victims in Japan. Getty images
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