The Case for Camp Inclusion

By Jeremy J. Fingerman There’s no denying the rich, joyous, and stimulating experience of Jewish summer camp; research proves it contributes to Jewish identity, strengthens the Jewish community and fosters Jewish leadership. At Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC), we believe camp must also reflect the diversity of today’s Jewish community and be accessible for everyone. Jewish camps should strive to create an environment which fosters growth for its campers and college aged counselors. Everyone benefits from an inclusive camp community, which has a culture that embraces and recognizes diversity. We encourage camp environments where each camper, regardless of whether or not they have a disability, is given what they need to succeed at camp, in an environment in which everyone can learn from … [Read more...]

Foundation for Jewish Camp Awarded New Grants for Day and Overnight Camping

URJ Six Points Sports Academy; courtesy URJ.

The Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) has received four new grants to pilot innovative programs supporting both overnight and day camps. Consistent with FJC’s new strategic plan, these four grants have been developed as scalable models that can be expanded as additional funding at the national and local levels becomes available. The first two grants will support overnight camps. New Camp Accelerator: Based on the continued success of FJC’s Specialty Camp Incubators, funded by The Jim Joseph and The AVI CHAI Foundations, FJC has created the “New Camp Accelerator”, designed to provide a platform and structure for the continued growth of the field. The Accelerator will fast-track the creation of new camps, encouraging and leveraging significant local investment with FJC’s well-honed consulting … [Read more...]

The Faces Of Tomorrow

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When young Jews peer inside at the current state of our institutions, do they see the faces of tomorrow or the faces of yesterday? Are they witnessing a community that is fully accepting, tolerant and demands everyone’s fair share of the communal pie? Or are the old ways, the barriers and fences, still firmly staked in the ground, preventing lasting change? By Jay Ruderman When I was in elementary school in Boston, our classroom was pretty homogenous. Children in wheelchairs, children with severe learning and other disabilities were not classmates and did not roam the halls with me. Kids with severe ADHD were labeled as having “ants in their pants” and were routinely separated from the classroom, given detention and other punishments as antiquated forms of behavior modification. Thankfully, … [Read more...]

Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion Announced

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In continuing its commitment to advocating for the full inclusion of people with disabilities into society, the Ruderman Family Foundation (RFF) has announced it will award the second annual Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion to Ari Ne’eman, President of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and Member of the President’s National Council on Disability. The $100,000 award recognizes an individual who has made an extraordinary contribution to the inclusion of people with disabilities in the Jewish world and the greater public and is based on past achievements and the potential for future contributions to the field. “As a person with autism, Ari Ne’eman serves as an inspiration to millions of people with disabilities around the world,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family … [Read more...]

With $1m Gift, Ruderman and Chabad Aim to Create Culture of Inclusion

With a grant of $1 million, the Ruderman Family Foundation (RFF) has established a partnership with Chabad-Lubavitch in order to create a culture of inclusion for people with disabilities within some 4,200 Jewish communities worldwide. This partnership was developed to promote a marked difference in the real-life experience of people with disabilities by changing attitudes within Jewish communities from “doing for” to “working with” people with disabilities. Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation, a passionate advocate of inclusion, says that the decision to partner with Chabad was clear: “With emissaries in virtually every Jewish community across the globe, Chabad represents one of the most extensive and influential outreach efforts in the Jewish world," he says. "We … [Read more...]

Disability Self-Advocates Envision a More Inclusive Jewish Community

Attendees of the Ruderman Family Foundation's first conference for Jewish disability self-adovcates on Dec. 17 in New York City. Photo courtesy Ruderman Family Foundation.

By Jeffrey F. Barken JNS.org What if Moses never accepted the task to lead the Jews out of Egypt because of his speech impediment? Award-winning author Chava Willig Levy, a polio survivor, uses the episode to illustrate what she calls a clear biblical precedent that people with disabilities have enormous potential to impact society. “When God said to Moses, ‘I’m tapping you to lead my people out of Egypt,’ Moses [countered], ‘No, you’ve got the wrong guy. I’m disabled myself,’” Levy tells JNS.org. But God gets angry at Moses for doubting himself, and asks, “Whom do you think gave you that mouth?” Levy’s anecdote introduces a concept that frames an ongoing Jewish communal discussion on the inclusion of people with disabilities. “There is Judaism, and then there are Jews,” she says, … [Read more...]

New Online Learning Center Launched to Enhance Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Synagogue Programs

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The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and the Ruderman Family Foundation have launched the URJ Ruderman Disabilities Inclusion Learning Center, an innovative and interactive online resource center. A key element of the far-reaching URJ Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Initiative, this pioneering learning site, open to all, offers visitors the information and strategies to develop truly inclusive congregations where everyone can fully participate in and contribute to Jewish communal life and learning. An equally important goal of the site is to decrease the stigma and misconceptions surrounding disabilities. The resource center includes dozens of practical, skill-building webinars and print resources created by leading disabilities-inclusion experts including: Shelly Christensen, founder of … [Read more...]

‘Let’s Build a More Inclusive Community’: Jay Ruderman’s Call to Action

By Jacob Kamaras JNS.org The Ruderman Family Foundation is known for its work to advance the inclusion of people with disabilities, but at the 2014 General Assembly (GA) of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), the foundation’s president used the concept of inclusion to issue a broader challenge to the Jewish community. “I think that we look at people and we label them very quickly,” Jay Ruderman told me Nov. 11 on the stage of the GA’s “press pit,” a section of the exhibition hall where conference attendees got the chance to listen to journalists interview various Jewish leaders. “[We’ll say] ‘You’re in a wheelchair,’ or ‘you’re a different color,’ or ‘you have a different orientation.’ And that’s not what we should be about. We should be about saying, ‘Okay. You’re Jewish. You … [Read more...]