• About Me

About Me

Howard Blas has a wide range of professional and personal interests. He currently serves as director of the National Ramah Tikvah Network of the National Ramah Commission. In this capacity, Howard works with Ramah camps as they include and support campers with disabilities. Howard previously served as the director of the Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in New England for 15 years. Howard discovered his passion for working with people with disabilities when he served as a counselor and division head in the Tikvah Program starting in the early 1980s.

Howard has led five Tikvah Ramah Israel trips and served as group leader for three Shorashim Birthright Asperger trips to Israel. Howard’s most recent Birthright Aspgergers trip was December 2018-January 2019.

Howard was selected to be part of the first cohort of Jim Joseph Foundation Fellows, through the Lookstein Center at Bar Ilan University, a program to teach educators and Jewish community professionals to develop online communities of practice. He has developed a community of practice for Ramah Special Needs Program Directors and “Shabbos Is Calling,” a weekly video chat for campers and staff. Howard received the S’fatai Tiftakh Award in April 2012 from Boston Hebrew College’s Center for Jewish Special Education and was a recipient of the 2013 Covenant Foundation Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.

Howard serves as a teacher of Jewish Studies and bar/bat mitzvah to students with a range of disabilities and “special circumstances.” He holds masters degrees in both social work (Columbia University) and special education (Bank Street College of Education).

Howard writes regularly for many Jewish publications, including The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, Chabad.Org, Sight Line (Covenant Foundation), PJ Library and the JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Favorite topics include tennis, baseball, music and disabilities inclusion. Howard has interviewed nearly all of Israel’s professional tennis players (Dudi Sela, Shahar Peer, Julia Glushko, Andy Ram, Yoni Erlich), Jewish tennis players (Diego Schwarzman), MLB baseball players (Brad Ausmus, Ike Davis, NBA basketball players (Omri Casspi, Gal Mekel, Dirk Nowitzki) and such famous musicians as Max Weinberg (of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band) and Israeli Idan Reichal.

Howard enjoys playing tennis and bike riding, he closely follows Israel tennis, and he enjoys attending concerts and music festivals. Howard lives in New York City.

Teaching:

Media Mentions:

The Jewish social worker and educator Howard Blas acknowledged a greater variety of special education options for these families, specifically mentioning the Yeshiva Education for Special Students (YESS) (Blas, 2009). The Shefah School in Manhattan also has an excellent reputation. Blas also stated that summer camps are becoming more inclusive, such as the Tikvah program at Camp Ramah, an immersion experience for campers with special needs.

National Ramah Tikvah Network Director Howard Blas paid a visit with a special delegation including (from right to left, above): Cindy Dolgin, National Ramah Commission Development Director; Allison Kleinman, LCSW, Director of Jack and Shirley Center for Special Needs at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, and Michelle Wexler, LMSW, who wears three hats: Camp Settoga CIT Director, Center for Special Needs School Age and Transitions Coordinator, and Center for Family Life Tween Coordinator.  The group toured our Machaneh (camp) led by Howard as well as Dr. Bonnie Schwartz, Ramah Palmer’s Tikvah Director.

There has never been more coverage of the magnificent deeds of Team 🇮🇱✡️ One of those responsible  is social worker, special education teacher, Jewish educator and camp director, Howard Blas who writes the most wonderful sports pieces. “I find that people love the sports pieces, usually since people connect to their Judaism this way and feel proud when they see Jewish and specially Israeli athletes on the big stage. ” we couldn’t agree more Howard! 😍 You can find Howards pieces in the The Jerusalem Post/JPost.com JNS.org Chabad.org

Howard’s article “Smile! A Unique Vocational Opportunity for People With Intellectual Disabilities” is listed as #6 in top 12!

I also just heard from my friend and disability hero, Howard Blas who is Director-National Ramah Tikvah Network, about some very exciting projects. The first is that the Ramah team is continuing to grow their vocational training for people with disabilities. Secondly, his project on identifying creative job sites for people with disabilities continues. You can check out many success stories here: https://howardblas.com/disabilities/job-sites/

Friends of Access Israel is pleased to announce that Howard Blas was named “Chief Brand Ambassador”. Since FAISR’s inception, Howard has been an invaluable consultant, offered forward-thinking suggestions and has helped enhance and FAISR core mission. We were so blessed to have Howard as part of our Friends of Access Israel Family, who summited Mount Kilimanjaro with us on February 9, 2020.

Howard Blas has a wide range of professional and personal interests. He currently serves as director of the National Ramah Tikvah Network of the National Ramah Commission. In this capacity, Howard works with Ramah camps as they include and support campers with disabilities. Howard previously served as the director of the Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in New England for 15 years. Howard discovered his passion for working with people with disabilities when he served as a counselor and division head in the Tikvah Program starting in the early 1980s.

Howard has received many prestigious awards and well-deserved accolades.

HOWARD BLAS NAMED FRIENDS OF ACCESS ISRAEL CHIEF BRAND AMBASSADOR
At the end of of February, Howard Blas, a past winner of the prestigious Covenant Award, was named Chief Brand Ambassador. Since FAISR’s inception, Howard has been an invaluable consultant, has offered forward-thinking suggestions and has helped enhance and FAISR core mission. We were so blessed to have Howard, as part of our Friends of Access Israel family, who summited Mount Kilimanjaro with us in February.
Howard has received many prestigious awards and well-deserved accolades. He is an outstanding writer on numerous global subjects. View his wide array of insightful and interesting articles and a valuablelist of innovative job sites which are providing training and meaningful work for people with disabilities. FAISR has purchased from and visited Spectrum Designs and Shanga Village and strongly recommend them.

In last week’s Camp Kveller episode, we were joined by Dori Kirshner, executive director of Matan — which offers year-round special education teacher training for all types of Jewish educational settings, including synagogues, schools and camps — and Howard Blas, director of the National Ramah Tikvah Network, which has been creating space for kids with disabilities since the early 1970s.

The Tikvah Program Director Howard Blas states, “We know how much the
program offers campers with special needs. It is the impact on the typical
campers and staff members which is truly exceptional–there are hundreds of stories of former campers who went on to work as counselors in the Tikvah program, and on to become pediatricians, psychologists, professors in special education–or just more sensitive people.” Two to three counselors
live in the bunks with the Tikvah Program campers. Each summer there are
an average of 23 Amitzim campers and 12 Voc Ed campers, with the camper
to staff ratio being about 2 to 1.

Howard Blas, of the Ramah camps, described the change that he and fellow camp leaders experienced. At first, it seemed that residential camps in their isolated rural environments could function, essentially in quarantine, while day camps, with their populations commuting daily, would pose greater threats. However, discussions then turned to the risks of an outbreak as well as the restrictions that would be needed.

Quoted in Media:

Howard Blas, a disabilities inclusion expert and director of the National Ramah Tikvah network, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that he was concerned about the effect of the strike on disabled and elderly members of the Jewish community. Stop & Shop, he said, has long been a destination for Passover shopping, “since it is so easily accessible by public transportation… I worry that there is really nothing [else] nearby.” He noted that some people in vulnerable populations may be uncomfortable or unhappy switching their routines.

View Original Source at The Jerusalem Post

Howard Blas, the director of the National Ramah Tikvah Network, and one of the organizers of the special needs trip, says they made some changes to the traditional Birthright itinerary, while still hitting up the major sites in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, Masada and the Dead Sea.

View Original Source at The Jerusalem Post

When the Tikvah travelers arrived in Israel, they kicked off their experience with traditional Israeli foods – schnitzel and rogelach. The itinerary was constructed to help the young people – all with different abilities and disabilities – to experience Israel with all their senses, explained Tikvah director Howard Blas, who accompanied the mission. Participants rode in jeeps on the Golan Heights, floated in the Dead Sea, planted trees, made chocolate and touched the Western Wall.

View Original source at The Jerusalem Post

“Having kids with disabilities is just as normal as having sports at Camp Ramah. It’s what we do,” said Howard Blas, director of the Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah.

View Original Source at The Washington Jewish Week

“Each camp is a little bit different,” says Howard Blas, who directs the National Ramah Tikvah Network. “The one in New England is our oldest and largest and probably has the widest range of campers with disabilities. Some are on the autism spectrum, some have intellectual disabilities like Down syndrome or Williams syndrome, others have seizure disorders or cerebral palsy-we have campers with many different conditions.” “We are really able to customize and individualize the program; there are many different ways through camp,” Blas says.

View Original source at The Brain&Life

Other organizations that have shaped me over the years include Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, the National Ramah Commission, and Congregation Beth Elohim. I’d like to specifically name Ralph Schwartz, Howard Blas, and Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein as mentors and thought partners.

Daniel Olson “A Partial Invitation to Citizenship: Birthright Israel Trips for Young Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities”

When the Tikvah travelers arrived in Israel, they kicked off their experience with traditional Israeli foods – schnitzel and rogelach. The itinerary was constructed to help the young people – all with different abilities and disabilities – to experience Israel with all their senses, explained Tikvah director Howard Blas, who accompanied the mission. Participants rode in jeeps on the Golan Heights, floated in the Dead Sea, planted trees, made chocolate and touched the Western Wall.

View Original Source at Jerusalem Post