The New Normal

Everyone is welcome in The New Normal, a Jewish blog about disability. We're a source of information, inspiration and a challenge to received wisdom.

Jewish Disability Awareness Month: How To Keep The Message Alive

Last month, many people worked tirelessly to make congregations and communities across our country aware of the capabilities and aspirations of Jews with disabilities. What can we do to transform the message of Jewish disability awareness into meaningful changes that bring us closer to full integration into Jewish life the other eleven months of the year?

Dramatic and widely publicized events have their place, but how long will their message remain effective? The experiences of the Biblical stories of Moses and Elijah remind us that ongoing “small quiet voices” must be heard after the fanfare. Let’s look at some “awareness initiatives” from early Jewish history that can help to guide us.

Rabbi Michael Levy

Webinar This Weekend: Inclusive Camping Tips From Ramah

While there is still snow on the ground in parts of the northeast and most people are ready to transition from winter to spring, camp professionals think about summer all year long! We hire staff, recruit campers, host reunions, plan programs and participate in professional development. It is so important to share experiences with other camp professionals and to learn from them.

At Ramah, the camping arm of Conservative Judaism, we are excited to share our experiences in inclusive camping with colleagues from throughout the Jewish camping world.

That's one reason why the National Ramah Tikvah Network is looking forward to hosting an in-person seminar (which will also be presented as a webinar) entitled, “How Inclusive Camping Benefits Typical Campers, Campers with Disabilities, and Camp’s Bottom Line.

8 Easy Tips To Help Your Child Know What To Expect During Passover

Passover is coming in just a few weeks! With changes to routines and food, children with special needs may need some extra support for these changes and be able to enjoy the holiday. Here are some easy tip to help your child get ready.

1. Use a calendar to count down the days until Passover.

2. Show your child pictures of friends and family that will be at your Seder. Discuss your relationship with each person. Suggest a possible topic your child can use to start a conversation with each person. 

A Purim Carnival For All

I love being able to give families of students with special needs the opportunity to participate in Jewish milestones and traditions like any other family. This year was the 5th year that we hosted an accessible Purim carnival for our students. Each year, we build a carnival with accommodations and care so that our students will not feel overwhelmed and can participate in some way in all of the activities.

Celebrating Purim! Courtesy of Gateways

To Be Inclusive Or Not To Be Inclusive: It Shouldn't Even Be A Question

Editor's Note: Last spring we shared a blog about the Shefa School written by Director Yoni Schwab.

I just opened an e-mail inviting me to this year’s GISHA conference for Jewish educators entitled “Excellence in Inclusion.” For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, GISHA is a well-known educational conference that is held and organized by the Center for Jewish Special Education at Boston's Hebrew College.  When I read the title I happily thought to myself,  “Yay! A Jewish educators conference focusing on inclusion of kids with disabilities.“ Then I read that the keynote is entitled “To Be Inclusive or Not To Be That Is The Question - Inclusion in Jewish Education, Making it Work and Recognizing When it Doesn’t.” The address is to be given by the Assistant Head of a new Jewish school in Manhattan for children with language-based learning disabilities.

Hearing Loss And Communication: It's Not Just Sign Language

Oral deafness may be the most misunderstood of disabilities even though, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America, one in ten people in our country fit this description: that is, they have some degree of hearing loss and do not speak sign language. Almost everyone knows someone who is oral deaf.

Yet, when I say that I am an Open Captioner to people who are deaf or hard of hearing, once the word “deaf” is uttered, most people imagine or mimic a person talking with their hands via American Sign Language (ASL). This familiar image of a deaf person is one of many barriers that prevent a large population of deaf people from gaining access to communication that hearing people take for granted.

Randi C. Friedman

Ruderman Family Foundation Announces $250,000 Global Innovators In Inclusion Competition

The Ruderman Family Foundation announced today the launch of the fourth annual Ruderman Prize in Inclusion global competition. The Prize aims to recognize organizations around the world who have demonstrated their commitment to the full inclusion of people with disabilities into the Jewish community through innovative programs and services. The $250,000 prize will be split equally by five organizations.

“Innovative organizations in the global Jewish community are leading the way in promoting the full inclusion of people with disabilities in our society,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation.

Inclusive Resources For Your Purim Celebration

Editor's Note: Purim comes Wednesday evening and we are delighted to share resources from Matan to help children and teens acclimate to what can be a sensory-overwhelming holiday.

Purim Gragger. Courtesy of Matan

Nativ College Leadership Program In Israel Opens Inclusion Track

The Nativ College Leadership Program is launching a new track on Nativ called “Yozma.” Yozma will be an inclusion track for college-bound Jewish young adults, aged 18-21, with mild cognitive and social challenges. 

Yozma

Inclusion Is Great. Now What?

The concept of inclusion seems important to most people. On a gut level, most people would agree strongly that “it’s the right thing to do.”  With that said, are we ready to change our behavior to ensure inclusion can be a reality?

The author's children. Courtesy of Michelle Steinhart
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