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The Camp Ramah New England Tikvah Program

Overview

The Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in New England is one of the first summer programs for Jewish children with special needs. Nearly 40 years old, the Tikvah Program continues to grow and evolve as it strives to serve campers with a wide range of special needs. The Tikvah Program consists of three tracks: Amitzim, Tochnit Avodah, and Inclusion. The Amitzim program offers 13-18 year olds the full range of Ramah camper activities. Tochnit Avodah offers vocational training, socialization and group living experience to graduates of Amitzim. Finally, our innovative inclusion program offers younger campers support in typical bunks.

Multi-Sensory Learning

For our Amitizm campers, the highly structured day offers opportunities to learn and grow by doing. Campers participate in swimming, arts and crafts, Israeli dancing and singing, sports, Jewish learning and such chugim (electives) as boating, photography, nature and the ropes course/climbing tower. Bunk life and various trips provide our campers with opportunities to learn skills associated with daily living and to gain independence.

Socialization and Inclusion

Tikvah campers live on the B-side of camp in close proximity to our older campers. There are numerous formal and informal opportunities to interact with all campers at Ramah, including ââ?¬Å?buddyââ?¬Â programs, joint bunk and divisional activities, and informal meetings. Tikvah campers participate in all camp-wide activities, perform a play and lead Shabbat services. Inclusion campers participate fully in their bunks and edot.

Jewish Living

Like all Ramah campers, Tikvah Program participants are fully immersed in Jewish life and Hebrew language. From spirited, musical morning prayers to daily interaction with Israelis, Hebrew singing and dancing in the dining room, and performing a Hebrew-rich play for the entire camp, Tikvah campers enjoy the beauty of their religion and culture. Some have even celebrated b�nai mitzvah at camp!

Attention to Detail — Putting Health and Safety First

Specially-trained counselors and senior staff monitor each campers� special needs, from seizures to allergies to mobility issues. Counselors assist as needed with self-care, and alert medical staff are always available as issues arise. Doctors, nurses and the Tikvah Director carefully manage health, medical and medication issues.

Tikvah Parents

The Tikvah Director is in close contact with these important partners. Through weekly newsletters and frequent e-mails and calls, the director works collaboratively with parents and such team members as therapists and physicians. Campers write home and eagerly await letters and e-mails from their parents. A Parent Retreat with the Tikvah Director and other experts affords parents an opportunity to learn and get to know each other.

Howard and The Tikvah Program

Howard's involvement with the Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah New England begin in 1984, when he was hired to work initially in the kitchen. At the last moment, the Camp's Director called to ask if Howard would consider making a switch to the Tikvah Program, where he would live and work in a bunk with campers with special needs. Instantly, it was goodbye kitchen, hello career move! Howard enjoyed the work very much and was inspired by his assistant division head to enroll several years later in graduate school in a dual Social Work/Special Education Master's degree program. He also continued coming to camp for six straight years to work as a tikvah counselor, division head and acting director.

Howard then took a break of several years to complete his graduate studies, work as a Psychiatric Social Worker on the Child Psychiatry unit of a Manhattan hospital and in a day care centre, teach at a school for children with learning disabilities, and privately tutor children with a wide range of special learning issues. In 2001, Howard returned to Tikvah, where he has been serving as Director ever since. Howard has expanded the program to include the Amitzim Camping Program, the Tochnit Avodah Vocational Training Program, the Post-Voc Ed Program and the Inclusion Program.

Howard works for Camp Ramah and the Tikvah Program year round. In addition, Howard continues to teach Jewish Studies to children with a wide range of special needs and circumstances. He also prepares children for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and helps families create "customized" Bar and Bat Mitzvah services.

Howard continues to write for various Jewish and secular publications. Many of Howard's articles can be found on the site, including articles about the Tikvah program highlighted below — some are written by Howard, and some quote Howard on his work with Tikvah: