Yesterday, I mentioned some wonderful online learning opportunities which address disabilities inclusion.  At the end of the blogpost, I referred to the Kol B'Ramah Podcast.  While it is fun and worthwhile listening to interviews of Amy Skopp Cooper, Ariella Moss Peterseil and Aryeh Kaleder as part of the My Ramah Story, 5 minutes of Torah by Noam Kornsgold, and various episodes of “Pod Across Ramah” (rainy days, birthdays, trips, first days, Shabbat), I have to admit I am a drop partial to the Tikvah Impact Stories.    Yes, it is my first attempt at podcasting, but that is no reason to listen.  The stories of people who have been connected to Tikvah over the years is the reason to listen.

The Tikvah Program was founded in 1970 and has been including people with disabilities at Ramah camps since then.   You will hear from people who were participants and staff in Tikvah—from various eras. 

Yishai Barth is very articulate and brilliant.  He speaks very openly about his disabilities.  He is also a recent graduate of The Commonwealth Honors College at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Even hearing about his major is hard to understand!  He constructed his own major in social philosophy and communication theory which drew on courses in many different fields, including communications, philosophy, disability studies, sociology, education/educational philosophy, psychology, and linguistics/psycholinguistics. Are you surprised he is also wrapping up a master’s degree and likely to continue his PhD—in England!  He reports that his studies will “relate to or at the intersection of social philosophy, cultural studies, and political economy.” And Yishai is already far along on a book entitled, “The Theory of Everyone.”

Yishai learned a lot at Ramah New England and on Ramah Israel Seminar—he also taught his bunkmates and the entire community A LOT!

Read more about Yishai here—he has an awesome website, the 

Check out all of the podcast episodes here

To go directly to the interview with Yishai, click here:  

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We are at the point in dealing w/Covid that we can speak about “silver linings.”  There are so many opportunities for professional growth and enrichment and continuing education, whatever field we are in.   Each day, there are webinars, lectures and podcasts for disabilities inclusion professionals and other interested people.  Some are “one shot deals” and others are offered as part of a series. 

There are even some coming up tonight and tomorrow—and there is still time to register!

 -Tonight at 9 pm ET!  Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School presents a program on “Deafness, Jewish Law, and Inclusion.” Rabbi Dov Linzer headlines the next “Changemakers” on Tuesday, July 14 at 9 p.m. The session will be closed-captioned for those who request it.

 -Tomorrow (July 15th) at 11:30 am ET:   Access Israel’s 3rd International Webinar on best practices and policies on accessibility and inclusion during these times

 -Each Tuesday at 1:30 pm ET, RespectAbility is offering a free online training series, Disability Access and Inclusion Training Series for Jewish Organizations and Activists “so they can learn how to welcome, respect and include people with disabilities from all backgrounds in the important work that they do.”  Today’s session, which was recorded and will soon be available on their website, was entitled, “How to Ensure Accessible Events: Both Live and Virtual Across All Platforms.” 

Upcoming events:

July 21 – “How to Ensure a Welcoming Lexicon, Accessible Websites and Social Media and Inclusive Photos”

August 4 – “How to Create and Implement Successful Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives”

August 11 – “How to Ensure Legal Rights and Compliance Obligations”

 Previous Trainings in the series included:  “Inclusion as a Jewish Value,” “How to Advance Disability Inclusion in Jewish Education,” and “How to Recruit, Accommodate and Promote Jewish Leaders with Disabilities for Paid Employment and Volunteer Leadership.”

 MATAN ran a four session series this summer, “Disability wisdom in Jewish Tradition.”

 The Ruderman Family Foundation is in season 3 of it “All Inclusive with Jay Ruderman” podcast

The Landscape podcast  It is “A podcast on people, programs and businesses changing the landscape for individuals with any type of disability.”

And my colleagues and friends, Shelly Christensen and Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer will host their 4th conversation this Thursday at 8 pm in “Everybody’s Welcome,” –“a new virtual conversation about disability inclusion from Inclusion Innovations and Whole Community Inclusion.”  In the upcoming episode, Shelly and Gabi share about their experiences on parenting, writing and spirituality–and what led them to become disability inclusion advocates.

Finally, we at the National Ramah Commission and the National Ramah Tikvah Network are gearing up for “Jewish Journeys: Tikvah’s Role In The Jewish Disability Narrative” on July 22 pm (8 pm ET).  It is a discussion about the growth and impact of Ramah’s Tikvah programs over the past fifty years, through the lens of Tikvah alumni, participants, and staff.

And please check out our Kol B’Ramah podcasts.  There is a new feature, Tikvah Impact Stories.  Check out the first one, where I interview the extraordinary Yishai Barth!

 There is so much wonderful content out there.  Please check some of them out!

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Nearly every summer camp is busy offering some type of virtual programming.  Virtual camping both engages children who would otherwise be swimming and making s’mores in person (but can’t due to Covid 19), and provides their parents with some respite and comfort, knowing their children are doing something wholesome and meaningful. 

In our 10 Ramah overnight summer camps, children with disabilities are ordinarily included in person at camp, through our Tikvah camping programs and through the support of inclusion staff.    This summer, campers with disabilities participate side by side—virtually—with campers from all divisions in camp. They cook, sing, dance, do yoga and more together.

There is one group of young adults with disabilities whose needs were not being met.  Parents were telling us that their children in their late teens and early 20s, who ordinarily participate in vocational training programs, were missing out.  They are used to spending their summer learning job skills, practicing soft skills at a job site, and socializing with their peers.  We therefore “got to work” and began offering a 12 session virtual vocational training and socializing program. 

Tuesday sessions address such topics as:  setting goals, giving back to our communities, mental & physical wellness, professionalism, managing money, resumes & interviews and self-advocacy. Thursday sessions feature a hands on activity and a voc ed alum sharing about his or her path from Tikvah to employment.

Last week, while interviewing Ramah Wisconsin alum, Austin, we learned what it truly means to be essential.  Austin was telling the 40 participants about his path from his Ramah camping and vocational training program, to having a job in his home community.  He shared with the group that he is employed by a hospital in St. Louis, where he delivers food trays to patient rooms and cleans them up afterwards.  He proudly told the group, “I am an essential worker!”

Tiffany then proudly exclaimed, “I am an essential worker, too!’  She told the group how she continues to bag groceries at her local supermarket in California and has been throughout the Covid crisis.  

Another alum of our Ramah New England Tikvah Program, Jeremy, also works in a hospital and hasn’t missed a day of work since the Covid crisis started.  He works in the supply room at the Washington, DC area hospital.  He prefers to keep his beard a certain length, but has had to “go shorter” for his mask to work properly.

This Covid crisis has given all of us an opportunity to ask “who is truly essential?”  We know that doctors and nurses and hospital workers are essential.  We also know that anybody who helps us get food and supplies is essential.  I am so proud that some of our alum, who happen to have disabilities, are performing such essential work.  I have no doubt it is appreciated!

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I imagine a day when we will show children pictures of a bar mitzvah from 2019 or earlier—and they will stare in confusion at a large group of people at the bima of a synagogue on the occasion of a bar or bat mitzvah.  They will see a torah reader, people having an Aliyah, perhaps the gabbis and family members—and they will be shocked at the large group of people assembled.  After all, there is no social distancing (and no masks).  We will patiently explain that, “in the old days,” that’s what a torah aliyah looked like.

Similarly, we will explain that on Simchat Torah, large groups of kids—and some tall men—came up to the bima and gathered under a tallis for a blessing for “Kol HaNearim.”   They will have no memory of this custom either, for Judaism has evolved, and we now have aliyahs from seats, and the blessing for the children from their seats as well. 

This is what happens—changes occur over time to reflect new realities.  And once they are in place for long enough, we forget how it used to be.

We are seeing the same thing in Major League Baseball.   Once upon a time, American League pitchers came up to bat.  If you were born anywhere after 1973 and root for an American League team, you have no memory of that.  You only remember the DH.  The American League adopted the designated hitter rule in 1973.  American League pitchers don’t bat except when they play in National League ballparks

All that will change with the start of the proposed 60-game regular season anticipated to begin on July 23 and 24. As part of its health and safety protocols, MLB will be instituting a number of rule changes.


-This season, both leagues will use the DH to avoid overtaxing pitchers by having them hit.

-There will be a “three-batter minimum” rule, requiring pitchers to face at least three batters or pitch to the end of a half-inning, with exceptions for injuries and illnesses.

-And perhaps most interesting—and controversial—extra innings will begin with a runner on second base. During the regular season, every half-inning after the ninth will begin with a runner on second base. If that runner scores, the pitcher won't be charged with an earned run.

The runner placed on second base at the start of each half-inning will be the player in the batting order immediately preceding that half-inning’s leadoff hitter, or a pinch-runner. However, if the player in the batting order immediately preceding that half-inning’s leadoff hitter is the pitcher, the runner placed on second base may be the player preceding the pitcher in the batting order. This rule will not be in place for the postseason.  Baseball stats keepers can quantify just how many games per season go overtime—and just how long fans sit and sit:  Over the past five years, 8.26% of all regular-season games have gone to extra innings. There were 208 extra-innings games in the 2019 regular season, counting for 8.56% of all games.]

There are more changes planned:

-If weather forces a game to be cut short before it is official, it will be continued at a later date rather than started from scratch.

-Players and managers will be expected to maintain physical distance from all umpires and opposing players on the playing field whenever possible. Players or managers who leave their position to argue with umpires, come within six feet of an umpire or opposing player or manager for the purpose of argument, or engage in an altercation on the field will be subject to immediate ejection and discipline, including a fine and a suspension.   My whole childhood, I watched Oriole’s manager, Earl Weaver, get in the face of umpires, just “begging” them to eject him!

-Pitchers will be permitted to carry a small wet rag in their back pocket to be used for moisture in lieu of licking their fingers. Pitchers will not be able to access the rag while on the rubber, and they must clearly wipe the fingers of their pitching hand dry before touching the ball or the rubber. Water is the only substance that will be allowed on the rag.


What do we learn from new procedures in synagogues and in the MLB? We learn that new realities lead to evolving and changing rules—and they just may help “the game” in the short and long run.  In the Jewish world, we have seen aliyahs from seats, Kabbalat Shabbat on Zoom before Shabbat start, Hallel on rosh chodesh over Zoom.  Some synagogues read the Book of Ruth, traditionally read on Shavuot, a day early, over Zoom.  And even Yizkor before the holiday starts.  Who knows what Tisha B’av and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur will look like? New realities are opportunities to innovate.

MLB is clearly taking these measures to get some baseball in this year.  And they are doing it in a way they hope will maximize safety—and speed.  We may just find that they help the game going forward.

Best of luck to MLB and the Jewish religion as we confront new realities—and new opportunities to innovate.

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