Inclusion

The Typical Israel Experience And A Whole Lot More

Eight brave young adults with disabilities from across the United States traveled to Israel over winter break as part of Ramah Israel Institute’s Tikvah Ramah Israel Trip. Most of this year’s travelers are current participants in or recent graduates of the various vocational training programs at Ramah camps. They are in transition to the world of work and, in some cases, moving from their parents’ homes to other living environments. Their itinerary included many of the sites and experiences of a “standard 10-day Israel trip" and a whole lot more.

Ramah offers a Tikvah Israel trip every two years.

Tikvah participants in Israel. Courtesy of Howard Blas

Inclusion Panel At JTS: Expanding The Circle And Embracing Diversity

On Tuesday, December 8, The Jewish Theological Seminary hosted the Jack and Lewis Rudin Lecture, titled “Disabilities, Inclusion, and Jewish Education.” As an educator and researcher, I was honored to moderate the program with an esteemed panel of guests: Howard Blas, director, National Ramah Tikvah Network; Dori Frumin Kirshner, executive director, Matan; Arlene Remz, executive director, Gateways: Access to Jewish Education in Boston and Ilana Ruskay-Kidd, founder and head of school, The Shefa School in New York City.

I am sure many of you echo my enthusiasm when I say, “At last!” While disability issues are becoming an increasing priority on the communal Jewish agenda, we admittedly have a long way to go.

Disabilities, Inclusion and Jewish Education. Courtesy of JTS

Preparing For Our Son's Bar Mitzvah Is A Coming-Of-Age Moment For Us, Too

Editor's Note: This blog originally appeared on newsworks.

In less than a week, my son, George, will turn 13, and like generations of Jewish boys before him, he will become a bar mitzvah. 

For George, who is non-verbal and on the more severe end of the autism spectrum, his bar mitzvah service will be carefully modified. We've taught him how to select his Torah verses from an app on his iPad that he uses to communicate. Rather than a speech about his Torah portion, he is painting a collage about it. He will deliver prayers from his front row seat, as standing before the congregation would cause him sensory overwhelm.

As we've prepared for his service, I've questioned my choices.

The author with her son, George. Courtesy of Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer

Shir Inclusion: No Madness Involved

Michael’s life took a turn for the better when he became a volunteer at Melbourne’s first ever Jewish Music Festival, Shir Madness. After a phone interview he was allocated to one of the most senior volunteer roles of venue manager. He attended the training and spent some time clarifying details of the task at the volunteer briefing. He did a really great job on that day. Unbeknown to us, Michael had spent many years at a special school and had never before in his life been given a position of responsibility.

Some of the Shir Madness Mensches. Courtesy of Melinda Jones

7 Great FREE Things You Can Do Over Winter Break To Help Jews With Disabilities

1. February is Jewish Disabilities Awareness & Inclusion Month (JDAIM). It’s the time when those of us who care about Jews with disabilities should be going all out to build our inclusion skills and resources, as well as to offer speakers and films for the community. Doing it right, however, takes some planning. So download your free guide to JDAIM today by going here. It’s quick and easy to read the guide and you can do it from a beach or vacation spot anywhere. So put aside the novel for a fifteen minutes, and get your creative juices flowing early so you can make a positive difference in February!

Jewish Disability Awareness & Inclusion Month. Courtesy of Inclusion Innovations

Israeli-American Camp Embraces Autistic Boy, Increases Camper Compassion

No one had ever asked to take a selfie with Yarin, a 19-year-old boy with autism. But when his mother arranged for him to spend one week at the Israeli-American Council’s Machane Kachol Lavan summer camp, the resulting understanding and friendship changed everyone.

Camp Ramah Darom’s Tikvah Program: Hope for the Future

Editor's Note: As the cold of winter approaches, many parents are thinking about summer and what camps are available for children with disabilities. This week we'll share several blogs about Jewish camping for children and teens of all abilities.

When I was first invited to staff the new Tikvah inclusion program at Camp Ramah Darom and was asked to describe it, I said, “The Tikvah program provides additional support to campers who may not be able to succeed on their own.” Even though I had worked with programs for kids with disabilities in the past—both in schools and in summer camp settings—I realize now that when the summer began, I didn’t fully understand the meaning of support.

2015 Campers at Ramah Darom. Courtesy of Ramah Darom

Multiple Chanukah Events For Jewish Deaf Community

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared at chabad.org here.

One of the primary lessons of Chanukah is to increase in light and goodness. This certainly seems to be the case for the deaf Jewish community in the United States, where an expected 700 people will celebrate at no less than four different giant menorah-lightings.

On Sunday, Dec. 6, the first night of Chanukah, Rabbi Yehoshua Soudakoff of the Jewish Deaf Foundation was joined by faculty and students for the third annual public menorah-lighting ceremony on the campus of Gallaudet University, the Washington, D.C.-based liberal-arts institution where all programs and services are geared for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

Jewish Deaf artist Hinda Kasher. Courtesy of Chabad

Israeli Synagogues To Mark ‘Accessibility Shabbat’

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An “Accessibility Shabbat” will be held in communities across Israel.

The program being held this coming Shabbat is designed to highlight the need for greater respect for the handicapped and disabled within the religious community, and in Israeli society in general. The initiative is being spearheaded by the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization.

The initiative was launched via a video campaign demonstrating the Shema prayer recited in sign language is being held in coordination with the International Accessibility Day on December 3.

What Are YOU Thankful For? Part 3

Editor's Note: In honor of Thanksgiving, we asked our "New Normal" contributors to reflect on the intersection of gratitude and disability. We'd love to hear what you are thankful for in the comments below! Read parts one and two here.

Like most people of all faiths, I am grateful for family. Thanksgiving, the quintessential American holiday includes traditions involving family, food and celebration.  I am thankful for the people with disabilities and, in many cases, their families who have taught me a lot about that word family and about how struggles to improve society and to improve their local communities have results in that almost mythical tide that raises all boats. 

Steven Eidelman
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