It is after 10 pm on the east coast and we just finished back to back Tikvah events—first, our twice a week Virtual Voc Ed Training and Socializing program for 45 participants from across our camps, followed by Shira and Rikud hosted by song and dance leaders from Ramah Ojai. The late east coast start times allows Tikvah participants across the country to participate. What a joy to see our Tikvah community having a great time, meeting new friends and celebrating Tikvah at 50.
Last week, my National Ramah and National Ramah Tikvah Network colleagues and I worked hard to put together a mailing announcing events to mark Tikvah at 50 and ADA at 30. We had no idea how well received these events would be!
I have proudly been working with Tikvah, the disabilities inclusion program of Camp Ramah, almost continuously since 1984. While there have been so many wonderful and proud moments over the years, I sometimes forget just how much Tikvah has benefited participants, alum, families, Tikvah staff members and the larger Ramah community. This came through loud and clear last night in our panel discussion on “Jewish Journeys: Tikvah's Role in the Jewish Disability Narrative.”
I started the evening by speaking briefly about the history of Tikvah, and paid tribute to our visionary founders, Herb and Barbara Greenberg. My colleague, Audra Kaplan, spoke about how camp is a place which helps people—with and without disabilities- develop their Jewish Identities. She also reflected on what our camp community would look like if there were no staff or campers with disabilities.
Then, panelists consisting of alum, parents, staff members from Tikvah and other divisions, a Tikvah director who has worked at 3 Ramah camps, spoke about Ramah’s impact on their children’s Jewish identity, what it means to be included in the Jewish community, and how the rest of the camp community benefits by having Tikvah in camp.
As I listened to everyone speak, I was kvelling, like a proud parent. I am proud that Tikvah was the pioneer in inclusive camping, and I am proud that we continue to evolve. Our camps have robust camping programs, vocational training programs, Israel programs, Tikvah Family camps, and we hire graduates of our programs as salaried staff members.
During the coming week, I will try to highlight some exciting aspects of Tikvah. For now, I’d like to share how proud I am that we are always growing and evolving and pushing ourselves to do even better. Last evening was our first event where we had both an ASL interpreter and a person doing live captioning. The ASL interpreter made it possible for a deaf parent of a Tikvah camper to participate. More importantly, perhaps—it sends a message about how inclusive Ramah strives to me. While this particular deaf parent would have been happy with only the ASL interpreter, we decided to also have it captioned. This is a useful tool for people who are deaf, but also for people not only for some deaf people, but for people who prefer written text, as a learning tool.
We are doing our best to push ourselves to be even more inclusive, and to employ best practices. I am proud to be part of an organization which is 50 years old, and still strives to do even better! Happy 50th Tikvah and let’s recognize the ADA at 30!
I wrote a piece for ejewishphilantropy on this topic today!