Rabbi Chanina taught, "I have learned much from my teachers. I have learned more from my colleagues than my teachers. But I have learned more from my students than from all of them." (Babylonian Talmud, Taanit, 7a)
Athlete and filmmaker Pascale Bercovitch made a somewhat unusual entrance when she delivered her speech at last week’s ADVANCE conference, a gathering for Jewish philanthropists interested in disability programs and services.
Because she has no legs, Bercovitch, 45, wheeled herself to the front of the room, in an event space in Soho. But because her arms and abdominal muscles are stronger than those of most people who do have legs, from her wheelchair she easily hoisted herself onto a tall chair, where she wriggled a few times to settle herself comfortably, grinning at her audience the entire time.
On the eJewishPhilanthropy website, the Union for Reform Judaism's camping arm responded to The Foundation for Jewish Camp's release of its study "Jewish Camp for Children with Disabilities and Special Needs." Click here for the rest of the article, including the movement's committment to put more "human and financial resources" toward special needs programming.
The Foundation for Jewish Camp released preliminary findings last week from their recent research study Jewish Camp for Children with Disabilities and Special Needs, which maps current, potential, and desired camp program opportunities for children with disabilities/special needs. The study paints an encouraging picture of the field of Jewish camping, highlighting a variety of models that successfully provide meaningful Jewish camp experiences to children with diverse needs.
For my dissertation research, I have focused on studying Jewish parents of children with and without autism. During these interviews, many parents of children without autism discussed the importance of taking their child to services so that he or she could experience a Jewish environment. Parents of children with autism talked about how they often felt distressed when attending services with their child.
Recent statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that as many as one in six may have one or more developmental disabilities or other developmental delays. This is a daunting phenomenon, but for the Jewish community, it is also an opportunity, both in the context of Jewish values and the continuity of our faith, to welcome those who have been marginalized back into our community. We must dedicate ourselves to a continuous effort to shift our thinking to ensure we recognize, appreciate, and invite individuals with disabilities and their families into the mosaic that makes up today’s Jewish world.
Each year, Oceanside Jewish Center (OJC) on Long Island hosts a special Inclusion Shabbat to focus upon issues and challenges affecting adults and children with disabilities in the synagogue and Jewish community as a whole. The weekend is named for and honors, Harriet Seifman (wife of the co-author), who worked with children with special needs her entire career, both as a teacher and as an administrator.
An enthusiastic group of 72 bike riders and hikers, ages 13-73, arrived in Eilat on April 30 after biking since April 24 all the way from Jerusalem. They made the trip -- the Ramah Israel Challenge -- to support special needs programs at Ramah camps in the United States and Canada.