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.
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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 (bio, below*) 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.
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