Organizations in US, Argentina, South Africa and Israel Demonstrate Excellence in Inclusion of People with Disabilities into Jewish Communities Worldwide
Rehovot, Israel June 24, 2013 – The Ruderman Family Foundation announced today the five winners of the second annual Ruderman Prize in Disability. The Prize recognizes organizations who operate innovative programs and services that foster the full inclusion of people with disabilities in their local Jewish community. The winners are: B’nai Amoona Synagogue (St. Louis, Missouri), United Herzlia School (Cape Town, South Africa), AMIT (Israel), Fundación Judaica (Buenos Aires, Argentina) and Sunflower Bakery (Gaithersburg, Maryland).
“All of this year’s winners around the globe are organizations not focused on the issue of disability but have developed innovative programs to include people with disabilities in the overall mission of their organization,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “We hope that they serve as shining examples for the rest of the Jewish world of how people with disabilities can be included in all aspects of life.”
In only its second year, the Prize has become an international one, as 244 organizations from almost every continent applied this year. Each of this year’s winners will receive $50,000 to continue their work and pursue new opportunities for inclusion in their local communities.
“Receiving the Ruderman Prize is immensely gratifying and affirming,” said Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose of B’nai Amoona. “When I first accepted B’nai Amoona’s invitation to serve as Senior Rabbi, I expressed a yearning that we aspire to be a “radically inclusive” Kehilla. That vision has guided our congregation’s efforts for the last 8 years and each year we have searched for and found new and more meaningful ways to enfranchise those who, heretofore, had been marginalized. This prize is a true Bracha as it will help us continue our sacred mission.”
United Herzlia Schools in Cape Town has a fully-fledged inclusive program that welcomes children with learning and physical disabilities. “Herzlia School adopted an inclusion philosophy in 1997 and today all our 10 campuses can proudly boast that we are inclusive schools that cater for all the children of the Cape Town Jewish community no matter what their academic, physical or financial situation may be,” said Geoff Cohen, Director of Education. “The transformation of Herzlia into a school that offers a fully-fledged inclusion program has been the most important, rewarding aspect of my 33 years in education. It is so gratifying to know that our work in the area of inclusive education has been recognized and we are humbled and honored to be a recipient of this most prestigious prize.”
In 2012, the awardees hailed from the US, UK, Mexico, Israel and Russia. The success of last year’s competition was evident this year, as many Jewish global organizations distributed information about this year’s application process to their partners around the world, resulting in a 50% increase in applications in 2013.
Sunflower Bakery provides skilled, on-the-job training, internships and employment services to individuals with developmental or other cognitive disabilities. “We are overjoyed to be realizing the dream of preparing young adults with a range of developmental and other cognitive disabilities with marketable skills and workplace experience desired by employers in the pastry and food industries,” said Sara Portman Milner and Laurie Wexler, the bakery’s co-founders and co-directors. “Our graduates are securing and sustaining jobs of their choosing, increasing self-sufficiency and enhancing their self- esteem.”
The other two winners are both inclusive schools. Over 1000 children with disabilities learn alongside their mainstream peers in AMIT schools across Israel. Full inclusion in classes, social, and extra-curricular activities is a priority throughout the AMIT network.
In Argentina, the population of children with disabilities is normally separated from regular schools and taken over by what in Argentina are called “escuelas especiales” (special education schools). The Fundación Judaica school in Buenos Aires has been a pioneer in projecting an inclusive model in which children with disabilities are integrated into mainstream classrooms at kindergarten and elementary levels creating a paradigm shift.
About the Ruderman Family Foundation: The mission of the Ruderman Family Foundation is to create and promote innovation that fosters inclusion of people with disabilities in the Jewish community and Israel, and to strengthen relationships between Israel and the U.S. Jewish community.
For more information, please visit rudermanfoundation.org