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.

Institute On Disabilities And Inclusion: Let Go Of The Old, Transform The Community

Editor's Note: This blog originally appeared at www.inclusioninnovations.com.

The second cohort of the Jewish Leadership Institute on Disabilities and Inclusion (JLIDI) convenes at the Pearlstone Center near Baltimore for four days of intense study this week. They will be treated to compelling and insightful presentations by our excellent faculty, bond with and learn from each other and have time to reflect on individual leadership challenges.

When I returned from the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities (NLCDD) Leadership Institute, on which the JLIDI is based, in 2009, I was inspired by the concept of Person-Centered Thinking, in which all people have positive control over the lives they have chosen for themselves.

Faculty members Sarah Blitzstein, Rabbi Lynne Landsberg and Shelly Christensen. Courtesy of Shelly Christensen

Tikvah Family Shabbaton: Not Merely Accommodated, But Accepted and Nurtured

I am filled with the overwhelming feeling of gratifying exhaustion from running Ramah New England’s second Tikvah Family Shabbaton.

Tikvah Family Shabbaton Participants. Courtesy of Tali Cohen

What's The Deal With Seinfeld's Self-Diagnosis?

Last week's announcement by Jerry Seinfeld that he is "probably on the autism spectrum" has been met with mixed emotions by those of us who are connected to the autism community. There are those who applaud Seinfeld for being open about his struggles with social engagement and those who fear that his announcement will somehow diminish the struggles of those on the spectrum. Both sides are excoriating one another in the blogosphere, highlighting the division between the parents of low-functioning kids and the parents of the high-functioning ones.

Rabbi Rebecca Schorr

On Gratitude

Gratitude is an essential part of my survival.  Let me introduce myself: I am a 67-year-old woman with a bipolar disorder, a spinal cord injury since 1975, an amputated left leg following a severe pressure sore in 2008, kidney disease requiring dialysis and breast cancer this summer that ruled out the possibility of getting a kidney transplant.

Beit Issie Shapiro To Establish Cerebral Palsy Center In Israel

Beit Issie Shapiro, Israel’s leading disabilities organization, has announced it will set up the country’s first Center of Excellence for Cerebral Palsy and severe motor disabilities. This has been made possible by the generosity of New Yorkers Eileen and Jerry Lieberman, long-time and dedicated supporters and members of the NY Board of Trustees. Mr. Lieberman is also the former President and Chief Operating Officer of Alliance Bernstein L.P.

Empowering the Newly Disabled: Inspired by Hagar's Revelation

This week's Torah portion “Vayera" (And He (God) Appeared), relates a traumatic episode in the life of Hagar, Sarah’s servant and the woman who bore Ishmael to Sarah’s husband, Abraham. Hagar behaved haughtily to Sarah, and Ishmael’s behavior verged on violence. 

Rabbi Michael Levy

Jay Ruderman Responds: It's NOT Ok To Insult Someone As "Aspergery"

The Ruderman Family Foundation responded to the derogatory use of Asperger Syndrome by an unnamed Obama Administration official in an article released yesterday. 

Winning The Title

Editor's Note: As we close out National Down Syndrome Month, we wanted to share another important voice focusing on living with Down Syndrome.

At 2 lbs 3 oz, Ilyse had already acquired the name "wild woman." Born prematurely with Down Syndrome, Ilyse showed spunk and grit and the intensive care unit nurses acknowledged this with a nickname. Later, as a competitor in Special Olympics, Ilyse's uncanny ability to capture the limelight led to her being called "Hollywood".  But the honorific that has had the greatest transformative effect on Ilyse is that of "Auntie."

Ilyse holding her niece. Courtesy of Becky Voorwinde

Learning To Be Independent

Editor's Note: We are delighted to share this blog, written by one of the participants in Ramah New England's Vocational Education program about her experiences.

My name is Gabriella Levi. I am 20 years old and this was my first summer in the Vocational Education program at Camp Ramah in New England. I am currently a student at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. I am studying to work in a preschool.

What I loved about Voc Ed was learning to be independent. I liked that I was treated as an adult more than a camper. For example, at Ramah I had a lot of choices for how to spend my time.

Inclusive Congregations: Justice, Not Charity

When our son was a newborn, another mom of a child with Down syndrome suggested that we see “Praying with Lior.” Deeply moved by the movie, I turned to my husband and told him that we needed to find a synagogue so that our Julian would have a faith community that knows, loves and supports him. We were not interested in “tolerance” or even “acceptance.” We wanted to be part of a congregation that celebrated difference and embraced members with disabilities as part of its fabric. 

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