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Oct 13 2014

Talking with Camp JRF, the Jewish Camp That Takes Inclusion Seriously

By at 10:00 am
via Camp JRF Website

Rabbi Isaac Saposnik via Camp JRF Website

 

Rabbi Isaac Saposnik is the Executive Director of Camp JRF, a Reconstructionist sleepaway camp in the Pocono Mountains. Recently, Camp JRF initiated a big push toward inclusion with a capital “I.” Now that campers have returned to school and their parents eagerly fill out forms to sign them up for next summer, Rabbi Saposnik had some time to chat with me about camp, diversity in the American Jewish community, and the importance of asking questions.

What makes Camp JRF different from other Jewish sleepaway camps?

The Reconstructionist movement has always been inclusive, so welcoming gay campers and staff, LGBTQ parents, campers from interfaith families, campers from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, and physical abilities, is obvious for us. But this year, we took a step back to re-examine our practices because there’s a difference between saying we’re inclusive and actually being inclusive. We want our camp community to reflect the tapestry of the modern Jewish community.  Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 15 2014

I Felt Uncomfortable Around Kids With Special Needs Until I Had My Own

By at 10:54 am

Moishy-And-Daddy

I’ll be honest: I used to generally try to avoid kids with special needs if I could. Aside from the awkwardness of not knowing how to react or interact, I also failed to understand how families of kids with severe disabilities stayed sane. Feeding, dressing, washing, and changing older kids’ diapers was not my idea of a good time, and I didn’t know how they did it.

Then I had a kid of my own. We didn’t realize it when Moishy was born, but during routine testing when he was 3 months old, they told us that his head was not growing, among other issues, and further testing was necessary. This news sent us on a crazy whirlwind of doctors, hospitals, cat scans, x-rays, and more. Eventually the diagnosis was clear: Our beautiful boy had cerebral palsy and microcephaly.

I looked myself in the mirror and realized that I had to change. Now I had my very own child with special needs. Avoidance was no longer an option. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 11 2014

Thank You to The One School That Found a Way to Include My Son

By at 11:48 am

Amit-music-1

“Our entire sixth grade class is going to Six Flags for the end of the year trip.”

A familiar feeling of anxiety overwhelmed me. I wasn’t concerned about the venue. I believe that 11-year-olds deserve plain, simple fun after a year of hard work. I had no concerns for their safety. I am not an overprotective, helicopter parent.

My anxiety stemmed from the fear that the school wouldn’t agree to take my son Amit. Once again, his excitement would be quickly transformed into disappointment, frustration, and anger. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 20 2014

Hebrew School Inclusion for Children with Special Needs Is Possible, Here’s How

By at 10:16 am

aleph

As part of our month-long series dedicated to Jewish Disability Awareness Month, Lisa Friedman, a Jewish Special educator and advocate for inclusion,  shares her guiding principals for creating a learning environment that is accessible to all students.

In my role as an Education Director of a synagogue’s Hebrew school, I have the good fortune to be able to use my skills to develop programs that enable students of all abilities to learn and thrive in a religious school setting. As an advocate of inclusion, I help guide my community to ensure that everyone has equal opportunities to participate and find meaning through all aspects of synagogue life. Yet, not all synagogues have a Jewish Special Educator. Not all synagogues have a professional who advocates for inclusion. What can parents of children with disabilities do to ensure that their children are fully included in Hebrew school?

First and foremost, open and supportive communication is essential for a successful Jewish Hebrew school experience for any child, but especially those with special learning needs. Be forthcoming about your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Do not assume that the school will turn you away or will not be able to accommodate your child’s needs. Share your child’s IEP, successful strategies from home and other information that will make it easier for your child to be successful. I am not suggesting that this is a magic bullet. There may be bumps and disappointments along the way. But without the willingness to have the conversations, you will never know what is possible. Read the rest of this entry →

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