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The book finally arrive—just in time to begin reading it over Shabbat.  We gave a plug for Judith Heumann’s new book  Being Heumann:  An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist at our recent National Ramah Tikvah Network discussion of Crip Camp—with Judy and Isaac Zablocki, Director of Film Programs at JCC Manhattan and the Director and co-founder of ReelAbilities: NY Disabilities Film Festival.  Check out the video of our discussion here:

https://howardblas.com/2020/05/11/a-discussion-of-crip-camp-a-disability-revolution/

I just started the book and, in a week when so many in the camping world are feeling sad about camps being cancelled this summer due to Covid-19, I wanted to share a few quotes from Judy which remind us just how important camp is for campers with and without disabilities.  Judy first attended Camp Oakhurst, then Camp Jened.  She writes:

Page 24: “At camp we tasted freedom for the first time in our lives.  Camp is where we had freedom from our parents dressing us, choosing our clothes for us, choosing our food for us, driving us to our friends’ houses.  This is something we would have naturally grown out of, like our nondisabled, friends, but we live in an inaccessible world, so we have not.  We loved our parents but we relished our freedom from them.  I met my first boyfriend at camp…”

 Page 25:  “The freedom we felt at camp was not just from our parents and our need for their daily assistance in order to live our lives. We were drunk on the freedom of not feeling like a burden, a feeling that was a constant companion to our lives outside of camp.”

Page 27:  “But camp was completely different.  Camp was for us.  It was designed specifically for our neeDs in mind and our parents paid for us to be part of it.  Our participation wasn’t contingent on someone else’s generosity; it was a given.  I didn’t have to worry that if I wanted to do something or go someplace, I’d have to ask somebody for a favor.  I didn’t have to feel guilty about how much work it took to get me dressed and take me to the bathroom.  The counselors were paid to do these things for us, which made all the difference in the world….At camp, I didn’t have to worry about what I needed, or how much help I could ask for at one time…CAMP, I THOUGHT, WAS WHAT IT WOULD FEEL LIKE IF SOCIETY INCLUDED US.”

I am honored that Camp Ramah has been including campers with disabilities for the past 50 years.  We celebrated 50 years of Tikvah in Israel last April as part of our Tikvah Israel Bike Ride and Hike. We were delighted to honor Tikvah’s founders, Herb and Barbara Greenberg. Camp Ramah in New England was scheduled to celebrate “Tikvah at 50” this summer, but it will be rescheduled.  May we continue to include, support and embrace all campers!

I look forward to sharing more of Judy’s wisdom in future posts.

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Thousands of families across the country received very sad news this week—their children will not be attending their beloved camp this summer.  That means 4, 6, 8 or more weeks of kids home with little structure, and few opportunities to socialize with friends in the great outdoors.

Yesterday, a friend posted this request for ideas for occupying kids:

“Putting this out there to my Facebook friends, since many of us are in the same boat… Does anyone have a clue what they’re doing with their kids all summer now that camps are officially shut down? I’m open to any ideas that get them outside and being social (while remaining socially distant and safe.)”

Within 19 hours, he got 51 responses, ranging from rent an RV and drive cross country, to put them up for adoption!  Other less dramatic options included buying a trampoline and riding bikes, and creating a project based program- an hour online a day and then they have to build/create/do off line.  In response to this last suggestion, someone shared news of a Canadian-based newsletter and FB group, Backyard Camp [https://backyardcamp.ca/?fbclid=IwAR39kckaNfQRzvzSB4F4nsRbLS5bCP1GKvLjjiPWjx4lS-HWhd9lnApztM0]. 

While parents clearly have a lot to balance this summer—between working, cooking meals, and keeping kids engaged, there are clearly many creative, fun, educational–even low(er) stress options.  As a start, many camps and camping movements are offering several hours of virtual camp programs per day.   

This summer provides a wonderful opportunity to think of the things you enjoyed as a child and share them with your children.  Think also of the life skills they will need to learn and get a jump NOW!  Here is a start. 

-take a hike!

-make a terrarium

-learn basic meal prep (and baking!)

-learn how to do the laundry! (bonus points for learning to iron!)

-yard work: cutting the grass, raking, trimming hedges, weeding

-plant a garden

-music appreciation (listen to music from different eras, genres, etc)

-paint by numbers

-do tie dyeing

-draw with colored pencils

-build a model (I loved tanks, cars and planes as a kid!)

-start a business! (one camper of mine, a 24-year-old with Down Syndrome, started a t-shirt company—he has one design for now and is selling online and donating part of the profits to some organizations he and his family care about)

-limit time on the computer, but know, there are some wonderful, educational things you can do online:    tour a museum, learn a language,  learn an instrument..  

The summer may not be easy, but it can certainly have moments of skill-building, togetherness and FUN!

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These days, in the absence of any professional sports taking place in the US, any sports story catches the attention of sports fans.  Even stories about the new date (and shorter length) of the Belmont Stakes, Noah Syndergaard’s Tommy John surgery (https://nypost.com/2020/05/20/why-noah-syndergaards-mets-future-is-so-murky/) or Rob Gronkowski “bulking up” (https://nypost.com/2020/05/21/rob-gronkowski-is-bulking-up-ahead-of-his-buccaneers-debut/) occupy the sports pages.

It has been rare to find a truly important sports story.  Fortunately, a few publications have chosen to spotlight the important work of tennis player Noah Rubin and his “Behind the Racquet” project.  Rubin and more than 135 fellow athletes have thusfar posed for a picture–hiding their faces behind the strings of their rackets—and sharing a struggle they have faced on the road to greatness—from eating disorders, depression and anxiety, speech and language issues and death of parents.

Noah is a real mensch, as are various family members.  I have been following his career for years and have been privileged to interview him, his mom and sister several times.  We should all admire his bravery, recognize that it is ok to be open about our own vulnerabilities, and cut professional athletes a break—they are people too, struggling with their own issues. 

Please read my three Noah Rubin articles (from the Times of Israel and the Jerusalem Post), and two fine articles from this week in ESPN and ITF Tennis Newsletter:

https://www.timesofisrael.com/jewish-teen-tennis-star-set-to-play-at-us-open/

https://howardblas.com/2019/08/22/noah-rubin-finds-his-strength-on-both-sides-of-the-racket/

https://howardblas.com/2016/08/28/israeli-jewish-players-make-waves-in-tournament-before-the-main-event/

https://www.espn.com/tennis/story/_/id/29178989/on-racquet-noah-rubin-brings-tennis-players-mental-emotional-struggles-focus?fbclid=IwAR0i8IgsXfniCoznujyexm9FiQsfamcsgKiv5JMRppmB9dMSNGSwPXXUJ1g

https://www.itftennis.com/en/news-and-media/articles/noah-rubin-it-is-okay-to-prioritise-happiness/?utm_campaign=1414947_This%20Week%20-%20210520&utm_medium=email&utm_source=emailtwocircles&dm_i=4OYA,UBS3,3HGF9K,3OXDR,1

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Today was a day of sadness and disappointment for thousands of campers, families, alum and supporters of Ramah camps across the US and Canada.  By the end of the day, nearly all overnight and day camps announced they will not “open for business” at all this summer.   So many sad posts on Facebook, moving videos from camp directors and tears from oldest edah campers who won’t have the final camp experience they have been dreaming about for years.

On the same day, over 100 educators from across the US (and some from abroad) gathered for a Zoom webinar sponsored by the Jewish Education Project, entitled “Adapting: The Future of Jewish Education”-A Conversation with David Bryfman and Meredith Lewis.   While Dr. Bryfman, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of The Jewish Education Project, is an impressive educator and an excellent interviewer, it is Ms. Lewis who has a most impressive job title: Director of Content, Education, and Family Experience for PJ Library in North America.  As part of her job, she manages the creation of books and other new content, oversees PJ Library’s role in the field of Jewish education, and serves as the chief “knower” of families for the PJ Library enterprise.  She truly is a “knower,” as evidenced by the thoughtful, informative answers offered to the questions asked by Bryfman and webinar participants.

Lewis shared the impressive history of PJ Library.  Thanks to the generosity of Harold Grinspoon and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, more than 200,000 families in the US and over 750,000 around the world have had their knowledge of Jewish life and their connection to the Jewish People expanded and enhanced.  Perhaps more importantly, they have been exposed, as Lewis describes, to “the diversity of the Jewish population.”  Through Jewish books, readers learn about families with two fathers, and about Jews of color.  As someone who spends so much time in the Jewish disabilities inclusion space, I was delighted to learn PJ Library is looking for manuscripts about disabilities inclusion and is thoughtfully trying to address how to portray (in children’s picture books) people with invisible disabilities and mental health issues. 

What a treat to hear how PJ Library works with over 200 partners in North America on the important and evolving work of Jewish Engagement.  Keep up the great work!


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