In 1968, two long Island special education teachers proposed a program, later known at The Tikvah Program, which would include children and young adults in a “typical,” Jewish, overnight summer camp. Despite a great deal of initial opposition from the camping world and the Ramah Camping Movement, one director, Donny Adelman z’l agreed to include Tikvah, noting that it truly reflected the values of Ramah. The Tikvah Program started at Camp Ramah in Glen Spey, New York in 1970 and soon moved to Camp Ramah in New England, where it will soon celebrate its 50th Anniversary. Each of the 10 Ramah overnight camps, day camps and Israel Programs include and support participants with a range of disabilities. I have worked for 25 years in Tikvah Programs in such capacities as counselor, division, head, Tikvah Director at both Camp Ramah in New England and Camp Ramah in Northern California, and as the director of the National Ramah Tikvah Network.
The Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in New England is one of the first summer programs for Jewish children with special needs. Nearly 40 years old, the Tikvah Program continues to grow and evolve as it strives to serve campers with a wide range of special needs. The Tikvah Program consists of three tracks: Amitzim, Tochnit Avodah, and Inclusion. The Amitzim program offers 13-18 year olds the full range of Ramah camper activities. Tochnit Avodah offers vocational training, socialization and group living experience to graduates of Amitzim. Finally, our innovative inclusion program offers younger campers support in typical bunks.
Is your child thinking about camp? Reach out to Howard.
Thanks to the pioneering efforts of Ramah, there are now many camping programs across movements and across the US and Canada which support campers with a range of disabilities. Howard has worked with the Foundation for Jewish Camp to co-author an inclusion guide.
Additional Resources: JewishCamp.org’s Disability Resource Guide