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.

August Is The Hardest Month: Disability And Parental Loneliness

Today? I want what I can’t have.

I want Akiva to sleep late. Really late. So late, that I have to march into his room, check that he’s alive, and wake him up because hey, it’s 1 PM, and I’m your mother.

I want Akiva to brush his teeth, handle bathroom details, and get dressed. By himself. Without scratching me if I hit the wrong sensory buttons.

I want Akiva to pour his own juice and get his own breakfast, while I lie indolently in bed and answer questions from my room, as one might do with their young adult children.

Akiva and his brother. Courtesy of Beth Steinberg

Ahead Of Its Time: One Synagogue's Approach To Inclusion

Editor's Note: In the blog below, Rabbi Daniel Grossman describes the way that his congregation made accessible choices 25 years ago. Many people are surprised to learn that religious institutions are not required to be ADA compliant.

As I think back 25 years ago to the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act, I want to share with you how the passage of the ADA changed my experience of synagogue life. I had just finished my first year at Adath Israel in Trenton, New Jersey when the ADA became a reality. I had worked since Rabbinical School with issues of the deaf, mobility, accessibility and inclusion and now felt able to take serious steps at the synagogue. 

The Congregation had agreed from the beginning of my employment that our new building in Lawrenceville, New Jersey would be totally different from the original building built in 1923.

The Adath Israel synagogue in Mercer County, N.J. has made accessibility a key priority. Via adathisraelnj.org

Ruderman Family Foundation Awards $250,000 To Five Inclusion In Disability Innovators

The Ruderman Family Foundation announced today the five winners of the fourth annual global Ruderman Prize in Inclusion competition. The Prize honors Jewish organizations who operate innovative programs and provide services that foster the full inclusion of people with disabilities in their local Jewish community. The winners: Yavne Institute (Montevideo, Uruguay), Jewish Family Service Association of Cleveland (Cleveland, United States), Kisharon’s Adult Employment Programme (London, United Kingdom), Room on the Bench (Brooklyn, United States) and Beit Hillel (Ra’anana, Israel). Each winner will receive $50,000 to continue their work and pursue new opportunities for inclusion in their local communities.More information about each prize winner is listed below.

'You Are Not Welcome Here': ADA Access To Music Festivals And Other Outdoor Venues

Editor's note: Thank you to David Ferleger for sharing this important blog that originally appeared at ada-law.blogspot.com.

If I love music and use a wheelchair, the concert hall should have space for me to sit. If I love sports, the ballpark or arena will have space set aside for wheelchair users. If I am an amputee or on crutches, I’ll be able to drive up close to the venue so I can enter without much inconvenience.

But suppose I have tickets to a music or other festival, or other outdoor event, where the main stage, the main action, is distant from the satellite parking lots. Suppose I want to attend a public concert in Central Park NYC or another large urban event when streets are closed to traffic for many blocks in all directions. There may be shuttles but not handicap-accessible vehicles. There may be some reserved handicap parking spaces, but not enough.

David Ferleger

"Falling Off A Cliff": Vocational Education And Placement Essential For People With Disabilities

When the Tikvah Program for campers with disabilities was started in 1970 at Camp Ramah in New England, no one imagined a day when people with disabilities would be meaningfully included in Jewish camping. Now, 45 years later, every Ramah camp in the United States and Canada serves people with disabilities. The National Ramah Tikvah Network includes overnight camp programs, day camp programs, vocational educational programs, family camps and retreats and Israel programs. At Ramah, inclusion is natural, seamless and expected.

Vocational campers at Ramah New England. Courtesy of Howard Blas

Bageltoons: Inclusive Cartooning

Over the last few weeks, our New Normal blog has been featuring reflections and perspectives on the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

We know that employment is one area in which people with disabilities are still struggling. Last June, The Ruderman Family Foundation, in partnership with The Jewish Week Media Group, proudly announced the recipients of the inaugural "Best in Business" Award. This national competition highlights North American businesses, large corporations and family-owned, who have shown exemplary practices in hiring, training and supporting people with disabilities.

“Everyone has a fundamental right to be included in our society and the best way to achieve full inclusion is through meaningful employment,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation.

Bagletoons celebrates inclusive employment. Courtesy of Bageltoons LLC

A Disabilities Act For The Jewish Community

If you have been following The New Normal, or mainstream media, or even happened to do a web search on July 26th when the “Google Doodle” commemorated this day in history, you undoubtedly already know that we've recently marked the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

What could it look like if the Jewish community writ large created a Disabilities Act to address the rights of the 20 percent of American Jews who have a disability? 

True, we often bemoan the fact that the Jewish community lags behind when it comes to “equal rights” for people with and without disabilities. But 25 years is not a long time in the history of our country, and an even shorter amount of time in the history of the Jewish people. With that in mind, I choose optimism: There is time for us to catch up!

Separate Is Never Equal: 25 Years After The ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Legacy bus has been touring across the United States for some months as part of the 25th anniversary celebration. The bus travels with important displays about the history of civil rights of people with disabilities in the U.S.

The Legacy Tour bus made one of its stops in Atlanta at the end of May while I was attending the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability (SITD). The SITD participants, people involved in diverse faith community disability inclusion initiatives, posed for a photo with the bus.

25th Anniversary Of The Americans With Disabilities Act, Jews & Disability Rights

It’s the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Jews played a major role in this landmark civil rights legislation for people with disabilities. However, their story remains largely untold. All of these Jews have been and continue to be heroes to the civil rights of people with disabilities in our nation. While they don’t have the title of “Rabbi,” each of them is a model of Jewish values in action. A new book, Enabling Acts, details the complete ADA history, which includes people from a variety of backgrounds.

Bobby and Lynne Silverman were honored at the White House. Courtesy of Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi
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