inclusion

Ruderman Prize Profile: Thirty Years Of Inclusion And Going Strong At The St. Paul JCC

Editor's Note: In July, the Ruderman Family Foundation awarded five prizes to agencies across the world that are making the Jewish community into a more inclusive one. The New Normal will profile each of these amazing agencies over the next month. Click here to read last week’s profile.

The goal of the St. Paul JCC’s Inclusion and Accessibility Services Program (IAS) is to provide children, teens and adults with physical, cognitive and developmental disabilities the opportunity to be welcomed and fully participate in any and all programs offered by the JCC. The staff work with participants who need extra support and accommodations in numerous programs including: theater, swimming lessons, personal training, fitness programs, adult and youth programs. They have been dedicated to inclusive programming for the last thirty years. The program began in 1984 when parents came together and asked the JCC to create inclusive programming for their children, twelve in total, who had physical and developmental disabilities. One year later, the program doubled to support twenty-four children and has steadily grown in the years since.

A JCC participant paints an Elijah's Cup. Courtesy of the St. Paul JCC

Dispatch From An Inclusion Coordinator: What Brings Me To Camp

Last week, I found myself wearing an oversized camp T-shirt, sitting on the back of a bus headed up to the mountains for a field trip with a bunch of squirmy but excited campers. It was a bit of an "How did I get here?" moment. After all, I am a full time occupational therapist working in early intervention, not an educator looking to bring in a summer salary. I paid my dues working as a junior counselor, then a counselor at numerous camps … but that was 18 years ago. I have two children of my own now, both campers themselves. 

It is my commitment to inclusion for Jewish children with disabilities and differences of all stripes in all aspects of religious life that led me to pack my own water bottle and sunscreen and venture onto "the field," so to speak. 

Jaime Bassman

New Camp Program Provides Supports For Boys Who Are Deaf

It was everywhere. Madrid, Paris, New York, Moscow - everyone was watching. I’m talking about the FIFA World Cup, of course. According to statistics, a full 1/9 of the planet watches the proceedings of this tournament. We’re talking here about hundreds of millions of people. From distant corners of the globe, people watch the same ball bouncing on the screen and cheer for their favorite teams.

Well, there's another global event coming up, though not on the scale of the World Cup. Next month, boys are flying in from Israel, from Russia, from Germany and from all over the United States to New York City. What for, you ask? To participate in a Jewish camp. For many of them, it will be their very first time living and experiencing Judaism among their peers.

I am proud to be behind the planning of this unique program for Jewish deaf boys between 8-16 years old.

Inspired By Tim Howard, Recalling An Inclusive Community

Editor's Note: The name of the student written about below has been changed to protect his privacy.

Congratulations to Germany on winning the World Cup! For those full-hearted soccer fans, I hope you enjoyed the World Cup with all the attention and talk it garnered.

As for me, I started to lose interest when I could no longer watch the amazing Tim Howard, Team USA’s goalie, after the United States team lost. But I have to admit it was more than soccer itself that kept me glued to the televised USA matches. It was the amazing story of Tim Howard and how he played with such incredible prowess and timing while having Tourette syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary tics and vocalizations and often the compulsive utterance of obscenities.

Shelley Cohen

Ruderman Family Foundation Names Inclusion Award Winners

The Ruderman Family Foundation announced today the five winners of the third annual Ruderman Prize in Inclusion. The Prize honors organizations worldwide who operate innovative programs and provide services that foster the full inclusion of people with disabilities in their local Jewish community.

Debra Cohen, JFS President, and Becky Cisneros at the opening of “Houstonians with Positive Exposure.” Courtesy of Meredith Sega

The “Ordinary Man” From The Tribe Of Dan: Inspired By Torah Portion Pinchas

Part One

Time:  About 2245 on the Jewish calendar (3500 years ago.)
Place:  Hebron, Israel

Poor Dan!

Eleven of Jacob’s twelve sons had two or more children.  Benjamin had ten!

The twelfth son, Dan, had one son, Chushim, who was deaf.  Like many parents today, Dan might have worried, “What will be the future of my disabled child?”
 
The phrase “special needs child” hadn’t been invented yet.  On his own, Chushim, trying to be ordinary, would communicate “What’s going on?” when he didn’t understand a situation.

Rabbi Michael Levy

One Year Later: It's All About Lucy

Just over a year ago I wrote on this blog about my daughter, Lucy, who was leaving our local Jewish community day school after first grade. I have been planning this “one year later” blog post for quite some time – and yet, when I go to put pen to paper, I don’t know where to begin.

So I’ll start with this: Lucy is doing great. She adjusted quickly and easily to public school. She is happy and confident and more than a few adults who know her have commented that “she is a different kid”. 

Meredith Polsky

Dr. Wendy Ross: CNN Hero Helping With Autism Inclusion

Dr. Wendy Ross, a developmental pediatrician in Philadelphia, founder of the nonprofit Autism Inclusion Resources (AIR) has recently been named a "CNN Hero."

As a doctor who regularly diagnosed children who have autism, Ross was heartbroken to hear stories of social isolation from the families whose children she was treating. Because many children with autism become overstimulated in loud, crowded or new environments, parents often opt to keep the family home rather than experience fun family outings, like going to a ball game. But Dr. Ross knew that isolation didn't serve her patients with autism well in the long run.

Dr. Wendy Ross

Hearing Lightning And Seeing Thunder: Judaism Is Accessible

Tuesday evening begins the holy days of Shavout, the moment of receiving Torah at Mount Sinai. Revelation at Sinai is the first, and largest, act of religious equality in history. Many other cultures and religions experience the divine in the same way they experience the world around them – as a hierarchy, a society divided by class or title. The Revelation at Mt. Sinai is open to all – regardless of status, gender, power, or lack of power. All the individuals at Sinai are equal.

Rabbi Daniel Grossman

Preparing For Shavuot: Reliving The Sinai Experience

We could celebrate Shavuot as we just celebrated Memorial Day: with ceremonies, a day off from work and a festive meal.   Our tradition urges us to celebrate Shavuot in a more spiritual manner, by recreating the experience of standing at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah.

Rabbi Michael Levy
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