Adam Dayan: Advocating For Students With Special Needs

Editor's Note: We are proud to share another one of The Jewish Week's "36 Under 36" who is an advocate for children with special needs.

Self-Advocate With Asperger's Syndrome Speaks Out On Inclusion

As a college student living with Asperger’s Syndrome, I have learned to know when I am being accepted and included. I’ve learned about my challenges and my strengths — and I speak out about what true inclusion feels like. When I am viewed as a person with unique areas of strengths in addition to unique areas of challenge instead of primarily as a person with special needs, I know that I am being fully included and accepted.

Teen Perspective: Don't Underestimate People With Disabilities

Editor's Note: As we recognize the 10 companies selected for the Ruderman "Best in Business' award, we are delighted to bring New Normal readers a teen perspective on employment and disability.

Actress Nikki Reed says, "What is important is to treat everyone like an individual and learning not to generalize disabilities.” She experiences autism first hand because her brother has autism. She strongly supports autism awareness and helping people understand that people with disabilities should be able to have a productive place in society.

Young adults with disabilities need jobs in today's workforce.

Jake Borenstein

36 Under 36: Tikvah Juni, Public Face Of Inclusion Advocacy

Editor's Note: At the "New Normal," we're excited that two of this year's "36 Under 36" winners work for more inclusion of people with disabilities. We're sharing one of the profiles today:

When Tikvah Juni was 16, she received her first standing ovation.

“I remember all the people, cheering and smiling,” said Juni, who had been the guest speaker at an event hosted by Yachad: The National Jewish Council for Disabilities.

“That was the first time I really believed the world could change,” she said. Since then, she’s been trying to change the world one speech at a time.

Juni, who has Down syndrome, travels around the U.S. teaching audiences about inclusion. In Washington, D.C., she even lobbied state and federal legislators to increase resources for special needs students.

Masorti Movement In Israel Speaks Out To President Rivlin

Yesterday, the Masorti Movement for Conservative Judaism in Israel sent a letter to Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, signed by the leaders of every major Conservative Jewish organization, urging him to reconsider the cancellation of a bar and bat mitzvah ceremony for children with disabilities.

The mayor of Rehovot, Israel had cancelled the bar mitzvah last month because it was taking place in a Conservative, not Orthodox, synagogue. That move sparked outrage on social media from the progressive Jewish community in Israel and around the world. In response, representatives of the Masorti Movement for Conservative Judaism and officials from the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs worked on a compromise with members of the President of Israel's office. The parents and children were happy with the outcome and it seemed like the ceremony was set to take place.

Advocating For Students With Special Needs: Adam Dayan, 31


As a kid in a Sephardic family in Flatbush, Dayan thought he’d become a writer or lawyer. Eventually he decided that a writer’s life was not necessarily financially lucrative.

Adam Dayan

Public Face Of Inclusion Advocacy: Tikvah Juni, 32


When Tikvah Juni was 16, she received her first standing ovation.

“I remember all the people, cheering and smiling,” said Juni, who had been the guest speaker at an event hosted by Yachad: The National Jewish Council for Disabilities.

Tikva Juni

Autism Acceptance Is More Than Awareness

April is Autism Awareness Month.

It's not only about making people aware that autism exists. One in 68 individuals in the United States have autism. Most people know someone or know of someone that's affected by it.

It's not about just wearing blue for a day or making your kids wear blue to show support, although I do appreciate that and hope that there was a teachable moment in there somewhere!

From The Roots We Build

Editor's Note: As we think about Earth Day this week, we are happy to share this blog from a young woman interning in Israel's LOTEM program that supports bringing nature to people of all abilities.

Last February, I visited three of the ninety nature clubs that LOTEM runs around Israel. LOTEM's mission statement came to life as I watched Noa, a nature club guide, run her activity and lesson for adults with severe disabilities. Nature was brought to life in front of them and I was able to see the direct impact that it had on them, whether it was a large smile or scream of joy!

Participants at Elwyn. Courtesy of LOTEM
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