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Special Articles

Apr32017
Baseball alumni take on the world
April 3, 2017

Two players’ journeys from Yale to the Red Sox to Team Israel. Like many Yale baseball fans, head Bulldogs coach John Stuper recalls watching in August 2012 as one of his former stars, Craig Breslow ’02, pitched to another, catcher Ryan Lavarnway ’09. This wasn’t some Yale baseball… Read more...

Mar62017
Mustering Up Morning ‘Minyan’ in Sun-Drenched St. Thomas
March 6, 2017

Writer joins a Virgin Islands rabbi on his daily rounds of hotels, timeshares and cruise ships ST. THOMAS, V.I.—The questions, both halachic and practical, start early on this 32-square-mile island in the Caribbean Sea. Rabbi Asher Federman, director of Chabad Lubavitch of the Virgin Islands in… Read more...

Aug102016
What World Team Tennis Can Teach Our Synagogues
August 10, 2016

It is rare that two of my favorite topics – tennis and Judaism – have much to teach each other. A few nights ago, as I watched the New York Empire battle the Washington Kastle on Opening Night of the World Team Tennis season at the legendary West Side Tennis club in Forest Hills, New York, I… Read more...

Jun12016
5 Tips For Making Playdates Fun For All Children
June 1, 2016

Kids today have more exposure and familiarity with all sorts of differences than their parents did. Not too long ago, it was the norm for children with any kind of special needs to be educated in separate programs and schools. Today children with disabilities — both visible and invisible — are… Read more...

Apr92016
Inclusion is a Critical Social Justice Issue: An Interview with Beth Steinberg of Shutaf
April 9, 2016

Social Justice may be understood through the many lenses found in Jewish texts, but perhaps none as foundational as “love thy neighbor as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18). In an interview conducted by Covenant Award Recipient and Director of National Ramah Tikvah Network Howard Blas, Shutaf… Read more...

Feb142016
Israel: The Original Covenant Classroom
February 14, 2016

In a special guest post for Covenant Classroom, Covenant Award recipient and Director of the National Ramah Tikvah Network Howard Blas shares some of the latest and greatest creative and original educational programming from Israel and reminds us yet again how the land of our ancestors is truly… Read more...

Sep242015
Wheelchair Tennis shows opportunity for inclusion in sports
September 24, 2015

For most tennis fans, the highlight of the 2015 U.S. Open was the anticipation and excitement around Serena Williams possibly winning the Grand Slam – all four major titles in a calendar year – for the first time since Stefi Graf accomplished this feat in 1988. For me, the highlight occurred on… Read more...

Sep62015
Friends of Tikvah Teach Baking, Storytelling and Dance!
September 6, 2015

Many people come each summer to see Tikvah in action – prospective parents, funders, educators, former staff members and friends who want to share a talent or skill. This summer, we have been blessed with three visitors who came to teach. Chef Paula Shoyer comes each year to share cooking and… Read more...

Sep62015
"Falling Off A Cliff": Vocational Education And Placement Essential For People With Disabilities
September 6, 2015

When the Tikvah Program for campers with disabilities was started in 1970 at Camp Ramah in New England, no one imagined a day when people with disabilities would be meaningfully included in Jewish camping. Now, 45 years later, every Ramah camp in the United States and Canada serves people with… Read more...

Aug252015
Moving Up
August 25, 2015

Everyone at Camp Ramah in New England calls the elderly Israeli man in charge of our nagarut (woodworking) department “Ron Im HaZakan,” Ron with the Beard. Ron has a long gray beard and has been coming to camp for many years. “Where is David this year?” Ron asks me in Hebrew… Read more...

Aug122015
Special Visitors to Tikvah Kayitz 2015: Educators, Disability Professionals & Funders
August 12, 2015

We have been blessed with many visitors to our Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in New England. Many visitors are educators and professionals in the field of disabilities and inclusion. They came from various communities and represented many denominations. Many came to observe Tikvah in action and to… Read more...

Aug102015
Alexa + Ramah Israel Seminar = Success!
August 10, 2015

On Sunday August 9th at approximately 4 pm, a group of Camp Ramah in New England Niv14 campers landed in New York after six amazing weeks on Ramah Israel Seminar. As these young men and women were enroute to their homes and were beginning to think ahead to Seminar Day in Palmer on Tuesday August… Read more...

Jul82015
New Online Inclusion Guide Helps Camp Prepare For All Campers
July 8, 2015

As more Jewish camps across the country expand their programs to welcome campers of all abilities, a new online resource has been created in a partnership between the Foundation For Jewish Camp and the Ramah Camping Movement. The “Inclusion Training Guide for Jewish Summer Camps” is a… Read more...

Jun172015
Using Learning and Behavioral Profiles to Help Students and Campers
June 17, 2015

Many years ago, I was giving bar mitzvah lessons to Jesse, a very intelligent young man with learning differences. When he heard that I would soon begin teaching one of his classmates, as well, he told me, “You will need to teach Jon differently than you teach me. I am good with transliterating the… Read more...

Jun22015
As Inclusion Expands In Jewish Summer Camps, A New Training Guide
June 2, 2015

After three years, the camp director has finally trained the 800 campers to “quiet down” in the chadar ochel (dining room) when he puts his hand in the air. One day, a young man with Down Syndrome grabs the microphone from the director and starts singing a version of “Shalom… Read more...

Dec92014
Lessons in Collaboration
December 9, 2014

Recently, I participated in a webinar entitled “Inclusion and Sensitivity.” It was impressive not only for the content but for the fact that it was a collaborative effort of the Conservative Movement’s Ramah Service Corps and the Union for Reform Judaism’s (URJ) Camps. The coordinators of both… Read more...

Jul172014
A Year of Hopeful Trends in the Inclusion World
July 17, 2014

As a teacher of Jewish Studies and b’nai mitzvah training children with a wide range of disabilities, and as a long time director of a disabilities program which is part of an 800+ camper Jewish overnight camp, I am immersed in the Jewish disabilities world and am part of dozens of year… Read more...

Feb42014
Inclusion Comes from the Top – and the Bottom, and Middle
February 4, 2014

On a recent ten-day Tikvah Ramah Israel trip, twelve participants with disabilities, ages 18-40, were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime visit to a 1,000-soldier army base. Admittedly, other tour groups visit army bases; our group spent three hours at the MAZI/Bar-Lev base near Kiryat Milachi, where… Read more...

Oct132013
David Dalnekoff Turns 40!
October 13, 2013

Most people at camp recognize David Dalnekoff as the hard-working, good-natured man who delivers the mail each day. This past Shabbat, David was honored by his synagogue, the Westville Shul in New Haven, Connecticut, with a Kiddush lunch in his honor, as he celebrated his 40th birthday. I was… Read more...

Aug152013
'I Get The Job Done' At Ramah's Guest House
August 15, 2013

I came to the Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in New England in 1997 and was a camper in the Amitzim (the brave ones) division of the Tikvah program for campers with disabilities for about five years. Coming to Ramah was mostly my parents’ idea. We were looking for a Jewish camp mostly, and that was… Read more...

Jun172013
Summer Camp - Fun and Sun for EVERYONE!
June 17, 2013

The month leading up to the camp season is action-packed, a bit stressful and most of all—exciting. In less than a month, hundreds of campers with a range of disabilities will arrive at Jewish summer camps across North America. While the off-season is similarly busy with hiring staff… Read more...

May22013
Ramah Celebrates, Raises Money For Its Pioneering Camps By Biking Across Israel
May 2, 2013

An enthusiastic group of 72 bike riders and hikers, ages 13-73, arrived in Eilat on April 30 after biking since April 24 all the way from Jerusalem. They made the trip — the Ramah Israel Challenge — to support special needs programs at Ramah camps in the United States and Canada. Meaningful… Read more...

Mar62013
Jewish camps seeking to bring diverse groups under the same tent
March 6, 2013

NEW YORK (JTA) — Is there a more enthusiastic camper in the world than Ezra Fields-Meyer, a 17-year-old with high-functioning autism and a regular at Camp Ramah in Southern California? Not if you ask his father. Tom Fields-Meyer says his son’s annual visit to the rural retreat in Ojai, 80 miles… Read more...

Feb182013
Fresh Perspectives on Israel
February 18, 2013

Friends, Today I’m happy to share with you a fascinating description of Israel through the eyes of a group of young adults with Asperger Syndrome. Howard Blas, architect of Ramah New England’s highly respected inclusion program, accompanied this group on their Birthright trip and… Read more...

Jul132012
Our Inclusive Community
July 13, 2012

Our Tikvah participants joined the whole camp for a trip to Six Flags. Every year, I wonder if this is the best use of our time. It is a fun day, but it is very taxing. We assess the campers and their needs (Which rides? How much supervision? Water park?) and we assign two or three staff members to… Read more...

Jul102012
Book review: "Esau's Blessing: How the Bible Embraces those with Special Needs"
July 10, 2012

Book review: “Esau’s Blessing: How the Bible Embraces those with Special Needs” by Ora Horn Prouser, Ben Yehuda Press, 2011 Teaneck, New Jersey. Reviewed by Howard Blas. All rabbis and educators have incorporated the story of Moses and his speech difficulties (aral sfataym) into divrei torah and… Read more...

Aug302011
"Shabbos Is Calling" to Campers with Disabilities: All Year Long
August 30, 2011

This month, members of Camp Ramah in New England’s Tikvah Program returned to their home communities in New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Florida and California. Unlike their neurotypical peers who have year-round opportunities to participate in… Read more...

Mar102011
A cross-country crusade to open eyes about disabilities
March 10, 2011

The first annual Jerusalem Marathon later this month will provide spectacular views of 5,000+ years of history for spectators and competitors alike. All competitors, that is, except for Richard Bernstein, a blind attorney from Detroit, Michigan. Bernstein, 37, does not allow his lifelong lack of… Read more...

Feb242011
Shabbos is Calling: Camp Ramah engages Jewish teens with special needs in a year-round Jewish experience
February 24, 2011

In Azeem Kayum’s moving book, Wrestling with the Goddess, his mom writes, “Azeem does not want your sympathy. He wants your friendship. He wants to be accepted for who he is. I want all of you to realize that any one of you can be hit by a car today and become disabled. Would you like… Read more...

Dec242010
Jewish Educational Leadership: Nurturing an Online Community of Practice
December 24, 2010

Camp Ramah has been serving campers with special needs for over forty years. These include Ramah camps in Massachusetts, Canada, Wisconsin, New York, Georgia, California, Pennsylvania and Illinois, which offer programs for campers with a range of special needs. Some offer overnight camping… Read more...

Nov42010
Campers with Developmental Disabilities: The Tikvah Program
November 4, 2010

Disabilities: What the Ancient Rabbis knew At a pre-season retreat, twenty senior staff members of Camp Ramah in New England spent a weekend discussing the educational theme for the upcoming summer—the biblical concept of betzelem elohim —the idea that everyone is created in the… Read more...

Oct92010
Blessed with Options: The special Bat Mitzvah
October 9, 2010

Becoming a Bat Mitzvah has the potential to be affirming, celebratory, and a wonderful welcome into the Jewish community as a whole and into the community of Jewish women in particular. Yet, planning a Bat Mitzvah can be confusing and stressful, given the various practices accepted and the options… Read more...

Apr162010
Choosing the Right One: Summer Camps for Children with I/DD
April 16, 2010

Summer camp - both day camps and overnight camps - offer opportunities for children to learn new skills, form friendships, experiment with new interests, and learn new things about themselves. Children with intellectual disabilities are increasingly participating in these programs. But truly… Read more...

Jun112009
Toward an Orthodox Community that is More Responsive to People with Special Needs
June 11, 2009

Howard Blas is a social worker and special educator who primarily teaches students with special needs and circumstances in Jewish Studies and for bar and bat mitzvah. He is Director of the Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in New England. Howard’s work has appeared in publications such as The Jerusalem… Read more...

Jun52009
Gearing Up for ‘Tour de Shuls’
June 5, 2009

Photo courtesy of Ken Turkewitz, New England Region Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, Tour-de-Shuls Chair 2009 Riders and supporters from Camp Ramah gather at last years race. NEEDHAM — Over two years ago on a Sunday afternoon, Stephen Baum found himself heading south on his weekly bike… Read more...

May12007
A Specialized Program for Children with Developmental Disabilities within a "Typical" Overnight Summer Camp: Camp Ramah's Tikvah Program
May 1, 2007

Specialized summer camp programs for disabled children began to emerge in the late 19th century and expanded in the 1930’s and 40’s [1]. Although it is not known when integration of children with developmental disabilities into “regular” camps began, it is likely to have been pioneered in camps… Read more...

Aug52005
Yale Developmental Disabilities Clinic Newsletter: Camp Ramah New England
August 5, 2005

Howard was interviewed for Yale’s Developmental Disabilities Clinic Newsletter - Summer 2005 edition, what follows is the excerpt containing Howard’s interview. The original newsletter can be accessed here: http://www.med.yale.edu Camp Ramah, the camping branch of the… Read more...

May12005
Old-New Poland
May 1, 2005

POLAND — The trains whiz in and out of the Oswiecim Station, to and from the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. The people stand, packed like sardines with little room to move. The men with beards and black hats are sent by government agents to the left and to the right. We are in Poland… Read more...

Nov202000
Book Review: How to Be A Jewish Parent
November 20, 2000

Putting a mezuzah on the doll’s house is just one of many ways to turn your home into ‘Jewish space’ Maybe you can’t judge a book by its cover, or even by its title, but that didn’t stop fellow riders on several Manhattan buses and subways from offering their comments about Anita Diamant’s new… Read more...

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