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 see people seamlessly and meaningfully included in Jewish life. And they came in search of ways to apply what we do at Ramah to their own settings. Below is a roundup of special visitors to Ramah New England this summer.
Daniel Olson is a long time staff member of the Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, and he has served as Rosh Atzmayim, Ramah Wisconsin’s vocational and independent living skills training program. Daniel is currently a PhD student at NYU in Education and Jewish Studies.
Daniel is interested in exploring questions of how Jewish institutions of all stripes can be more inclusive spaces for learners of all backgrounds and experiences. Daniel spent the summer visiting several Jewish summer camps, mainly observing their vocational training programs.
We at CRNE were privileged to have Daniel with us for a week. He spent his time observing, voc ed, our vocational training program for young adults with disabilities. Daniel asked lots of great questions of participants and staff members, and took copious notes! His insights are valuable as we are continuously reflecting on our work and always seeking to be the best we can be!
Seth Young, Associate Head of School for Institutional Advancement at Carmel Academy in Greenwich, CT, spent the day observing and asking many questions about our work with Amitzim and Inclusion, our camping programs for children and adolescents with disabilities. Carmel is a Jewish day school known for many things, including its very unique PALS program, Providing Alternative Learning Strategies. It is always refreshing to speak with colleagues, share stories and consider new ideas.
Several months ago, Shelley Richman Cohen, the founder and program director of the Jewish Inclusion Project, and a member of the Board of Directors of RepectAbility USA, approached me with an idea. Shelley serves as a mentor and trainer for a number of synagogues in the New York area as they seek to become more inclusive. A Manhattan rabbi asked Shelley to suggest a program which is “the best vision of what an inclusive community might look like.” Shelley immediately suggested visiting Camp Ramah in New England as it offers several models of inclusive camping in one place, as well as vocational training, and it is always evolving and adapting. As Shelley wrote to her “fellow travelers,” “We will be seeing a Jewish institutional model that integrates people with disabilities into the fabric of the community.”
We are so grateful to Shelley for organizing a day-long trip to Palmer. Thank you to Aileen Heiman (Park Slope Jewish Center), Mindy Sherry (Union Temple), Bryna Bilanow (Beth Emeth), Rabbi Heidi Hoover (Beth Emeth), Rabbi Charlie Savenor (Park Avenue Synagogue), Meagan Buren (RespectAbility) and Shelley Cohen.
Our most recent visitors included twelve educators from Gateways: Access to Jewish Education in Boston, and Francine Shron, our program officer at the Ruderman Family Foundation. Arlene Remz, the Executive Director of Gateways, is a former camper and Tikvah staff member and a huge supporter of our program. Arlene has been a great partner and always shares information about Tikvah with Gateways families. Other visitors from Gateways included: Rachel Sommer, Sharon Goldstein (former CRNE camper), Sally Wittaker, Natanya Auerbach, Deirdre Munley, Rachel Fadlon, Nancy Mager (former CRNE camper), Rebecca Redner, and Mia Hyman.
We are especially pleased to welcome Francine Shron. The Ruderman Family Foundation has been a longtime supporter of such Ramah initiatives as Shabbat is Calling, vocational training (at four Ramah camps) and of our two newest Tikvah Programs at Ramah Darom and Ramah in the Poconos. What a treat to have Francine see Tikvah in action! I suspect that a highlight for Francine and the Gateways group was seeing our Voc Ed Bakery in action—and sampling some of our wonderful baked goods.
We always enjoy welcoming visitors to Ramah New England and to Tikvah, and we look forward to offering a day-long Yom Iyyun for educators and other Jewish community professionals next summer at Camp Ramah in New England. Stay tuned for details!