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.

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

8 Lessons From A Spectacular Special Needs Bar Mitzvah

Editor's Note: Thanks to Jewish Learning Venture for sharing this important blog.

My son, a high functioning child with autism, did not speak until he was four and is only now, in 7th grade, learning to read independently. Yet he chanted from the Torah, recited the Sh’ma, helped lead the service, and delivered a D’var Torah that was unique in several important ways. He was thrilled, and so were we.

How can you make your child’s celebration equally memorable?

1). Know your child and make accommodations accordingly. Do not hesitate to ask your rabbi to work with you on this.  If your child is outgoing as our son is, and can handle a lot of guests, fine. If she is fearful of crowds or has performance anxiety, keep it intimate.

Rodeph Shalom's Shireinu: Creating Community Since 2008

In honor of Jewish Disability Awareness Month (#JDAM15), I had the privilege of interviewing Rabbi Robert Levine, Rabbi Benjamin Spratt and Rabbi Leora Kaye from Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York City. These three amazing religious leaders plus Mrs. Gina Levine and Dr. Nancy Crown have worked together to develop Shireinu, holiday worship services for families of individuals with special needs.

The Shireinu program was started in June 2008 when Dr. Nancy Crown mentioned to Rabbi Levine’s wife that she felt her daughter with special needs did not fit in at Rodeph Sholom and therefore could only attend services on the high holidays.

Dr. Frances Victory

In Israel: Taking Inclusion To A Larger Level

On a recent visit to a Pikud HaOref, Home Front Command base in Ramle, 14 miles southeast of Tel Aviv, a soldier tells me a very animated story about his role in Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s military operation in Gaza: “My job was to copy the papers for our soldiers to drop from planes over Gaza this summer!” The soldier, in uniform with his bright orange beret on his shoulder, happens to have Down Syndrome. 

He is very excited about his job in the base print shop. Another soldier with a visible disability proudly recounts the visit to the base the previous day by IDF Chief of Staff, Benny Ganz.  “We saluted him and gave him a present — olive oil that we made on the base!” 

Twenty five other soldiers with disabilities perform similarly important jobs each day on the base. If Tiran Attia and other visionaries have their way, Tzahal, or the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), may become a “game changer” in Israel for inclusion and for shaping attitudes about people with disabilities.

IDF Soldiers. Courtesy of Howard Blas

The Jewish Week, Ruderman Family Foundation Launch ‘Best in Business’ Awards

The Jewish Week Media Group, in partnership with the Ruderman Family Foundation, is proud to announce an innovative competition highlighting North American for profit businesses with exemplary practices in hiring, training and supporting people with disabilities.

Those selected will be recognized with a Ruderman “Best in Business Award” and featured in a June 19 supplement to The Jewish Week, which will be posted on The Jewish Week’s website and distributed in New York and Los Angeles.

“The surest path to full inclusion in our society comes from meaningful employment” said Jay Ruderman, the foundation’s president.

transitions-graduates-at-graduation-credit-jvs-staff194.jpg

Jewish Inclusion Made Easy and Inexpensive! Part 3

Editor’s Note: This article appeared in the Fall, 2014 issue of  The Journal of Jewish Communal Service, and is disseminated with the permission of its publisher, JPRO Network.  Subscriptions at JPRO.org. We are sharing this primer in three parts; to see parts one and two,click here.

Budget the Time and Money That It Will Take to Do It Right. Inclusion is a lot less expensive than most people think, but it takes the right team with the right training to do it effectively. To ensure success and to develop an accurate budget, camps/schools/synagogues need to know how much funds are needed to have the right staff in place, give them the training needed to make them effective, and make the needed accommodations to the physical plant.

#JDAM15
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