This past spring, the Dekalim School in Be’er Sheva for teenagers with intellectual disorders went on a hike with LOTEM -- a JNF partner organization that makes nature accessible to children and adults in Israel with special needs. This outing was the students’ first overnight trip, and despite the fears of students and teachers alike, it was an incredible success. Below is an excerpt that I translated from an article that Shir and Shira, two students from Dekalim, wrote about their experiences hiking with LOTEM.
We want to say that this trip was an unforgettable experience. We want to tell everything that we experienced, so here goes. First of all, we really liked the first day when we traveled to Habonim Beach, and we really enjoyed the activities and we liked traveling to Acre. We went boating and we danced and it was fun – a lot of fun. After that we traveled to Rosh Hanikra and we traveled on the trolley and we saw beautiful and special sites.
Editor's Note: On July 5, the New Normal published Part I of this piece, which exhorts people with disabilities to take ownership of their High Holiday experience by discussing necessary accommodations in advance with their rabbi and synagogue staff. In Part II, Rabbi Michael Levy suggests specific questions people with disabilities might find useful to ask in the days leading up to Rosh Hashannah, which starts September 4.
An Important Turning Point
My parents, may they rest in peace, once did all my High Holiday planning. When I began exploring other synagogues, it became my rightful responsibility to arrange for Braille prayer books wherever I worshipped. This was, of course, essential when it was I who was leading the services. We must each consider our disability and plan accordingly.
The Torah reading for Shabbat July 6, Matot Ma-asei, includes a travel section (Numbers 1, 1-38.) It recounts the 42 places which the Israelites visited during their 40-year sojourn in the wilderness before entering the land of Israel.
Editor's Note: With this essay, New Normal contributor Paula Fox made us realize that a ramp to the bima is a wonderful thing, but not enough. The bima itself can and should be made more accessible: to people with disabilities, to children, to the short, to the tall. With the publication of Paula's post, we are launching the New Normal's Bima Project, which will aim to work with a synagogue to create and install such a bima. We look forward to sharing the Project's progress with you and of course invite your questions, suggestions and thoughts.
Until recently, I never thought of myself as a Torah reader.
Yesterday marked the official launch of RespectAbility USA, a non-profit organization whose mission is helping the 57 million Americans with disabilities achieve the American dream. In RespectAbility’s version that dream, Americans with disabilities are respected members of the workforce and wield significant political power. The current reality, according to RespectAbility, is that 70 percent of working-aged Americans with disabilities are unemployed.
Editor's Note: Molly Mittman is a second-year camper from Temple Shalom in Dallas. She is 9 years old and going into the 4th grade. Find the rest of her essay here.
My name is Molly and I am a camper at Greene Family Camp. I was born with Cerebral Palsy (CP). My CP mainly affects my balance because the muscles in my legs get tired easily. Even though I have CP, I am still just a regular camper. I have goals for myself that I want to accomplish by the end of the session.
During my seven summers at Ramah Wisconsin’s Tikvah program, I learned that my bunkmates from other cities struggled to be included with their Jewish peers in their own communities. Many of my disabled peers often had their only Jewish education and Jewish peer interactions during the summer at Ramah, while I felt very fortunate to have had a strong group of Jewish peers and a regular Jewish education at my own synagogue, B’nai Amoona in St. Louis, MO.
Ever since 1956, when the very first convention took place in New York City, the Jewish Deaf Congress (formerly known as the NCJD – National Congress of Jewish Deaf) long ago earned a cherished place in the hearts of Jewish deaf people in the United States. It is the address where everybody can meet up with former classmates and reminisce about the old days. It is also the place where so many Jewish deaf singles have found their matches – among them, my parents.
The camp season has finally arrived! Today we share some strategies to help camp staff provide a welcoming environment for campers with sensory processing differences.
1. For campers who are sensitive to the harsh glare of the sunlight, make sure that baseball caps, visors and sunglasses are available for them to use if needed. Weighted baseball caps (used only under supervision of a licensed occupational therapist) may be a particularly useful tool for certain children.
Schools, a shul and a bakery won the second annual Ruderman Prize in Disability, which recognizes organizations who foster the inclusion of people with disabilities in their local Jewish community, the Ruderman Family Foundation announced today in a press release.