The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
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February 6, 2014 - February is Jewish Disability Awareness Month, a time when the entire Jewish community comes together to raise awareness and support efforts to foster inclusion of people with disabilities and their families in Jewish communities worldwide. Shelly Christensen, a member of the URJ Faculty, founded Jewish Disability Awareness Month (JDAM) in 2009 with this mission:
"The goal of Jewish Disability Awareness Month is to shift our attitudes to see that having a disability is part of the human condition-and to see that humanity in each person we meet. Jewish Disability Awareness Month is universally recognized in February, but the need to belong and be included goes on month after month, day after day."
The Reform Movement is observing JDAM by promoting resources to help congregations be at the forefront of communal inclusion. Throughout February, ReformJudaism.org's blog will feature posts on disability-related topics; as will RJ.org, RACBlog, NFTYs blog, several Reform Movement newsletters, as the entire Movement comes together to elevate our values of inclusive, diverse and modern communities.
"The URJ's pledge to 'audacious hospitality' includes a firm commitment to help our congregations become the safe, welcoming and loving spiritual homes they are meant to be so that every individual, regardless of ability, feels that they were created b'tzelem Elohim, in God's image," said URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs.
To foster broader cultural change, the Reform Movement is partnering to advocate for public policies that ensure equal rights for all. Today, the RAC and Jewish Federations of North American (JFNA) are hosting the annual Jewish Disability Advocacy Day, where participants lobby their officials directly on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and for swift passage of the ABLE Act.
URJ Camps are committed to providing a Reform Jewish summer experience to all children, including those with disabilities. Inclusion Coordinators, trained professionals hired by each of the URJs 14 camps, are prepared to work with caregivers and professionals to plan for and provide a fulfilling camp experience for all children.
In addition, URJ Camps offer several specific programs for young people with disabilities. URJ Kutz Camp in Warwick, NY, offers an inclusion-based Jewish summer-camping experience for teens ages 13-19 diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Camp Chazak, located at Eisner and Crane Lake Camps in Massachusetts, was developed for kids entering fifth through eighth grades whose social delays impair their ability to function in a typical camp environment.
And now, during JDAM, the URJs Camp Coleman in Cleveland, GA, is pleased to announce the Chadash program for young adults ages 18-24 with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. Chadash will provide vocational training in a supervised work setting along with an opportunity for the participants to join in a wide range of recreational, social, and educational components of camp life.
"Over the past several years, Camp Coleman and other URJ camps have taken steps to ensure that campers with developmental and intellectual disabilities can fully participate in our camps. Because of these efforts, we now have a population of young adults with disabilities who want to remain or become part of our camp staff," said URJ Camp Coleman Director Bobby Harris. "Not only will the Chadash program teach important skills that these young people will be able to take away from camp, but the entire camp community will also see how the Reform Movement recognizes the contributions of every individual."
Read the original URJ Press Release here.