Category Archives: General News

Seven Outstanding Students Recognized by Rose Ruderman Scholarship Award

Dan SeligsonBy: Dan Seligson

Seven exceptional students from Boston-area Orthodox Jewish schools received an award for their outstanding scholarship as well as their reliability, commitment to community building and kindness.

The Rose Ruderman Scholars Award, now in its fifth year, is presented annually by the Ruderman Family Foundation and Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) in remembrance of Rose. The award grew out of a 10-year effort to boost Orthodox Jewish school education by the Ruderman family, who first established a need-based scholarship endowment in Rose’s name in 1999.

The $1,000 Scholarship Award is given to one student in the highest grade of each area Orthodox Jewish school.

Sharon Shapiro, Rose’s granddaughter, hosted the reception at her family’s home in Brookline. She said the students who received the award this year best represented the selfless and humble but extraordinary contributions of Rose Ruderman, who died in 1994.

“The seven being recognized today were chosen by your schools based on the best qualities our grandmother possessed all her life,” Shapiro said.

The award recipients are: Chava Rivka Dovek, Bais Yaakov of Boston; Moshe Wagner, Mesivta High School; David Davydov, New England Hebrew Academy; Liel Shkap, Shaloh House Day School; Aviel Taube, Striar Hebrew Academy of Sharon; Tzipora Brocha Pichey, Torah Academy; and Evette Ronner, Maimonides School.

Alan Oliff, who directs CJP’s Initiative for Day School Excellence, said Rose would have been proud of all of the students who received the award given in her name.

“They’re going to contribute to the world and they’re going to change the world,” he said. “These students exemplify the values that Rose embodied.”

2014 Rose Ruderman Scholars

Top row (L-R): Evette Ronner, Chava Rivka Dovek, Tzipora Brocha Pichey, Liel Shkap, Aviel Taube, David Davydov, Moshe Wagner
Bottom row (L-R): Sharon Shapiro, Myrna Lipsky, Marcia Ruderman
(credit: Ilene Perlman)

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We’re Just Getting Started

JayRudermanI invite you to read our interview with Congressman Patrick Kennedy about overcoming the barriers to full inclusion.

- Jay

Almost two years ago, our first post hit the Blogosphere. We featured a story that appeared in Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent newspaper which discussed local venture philanthropy and how this model will help shape philanthropy in the future.

We were off and running. 199 posts later, I can look back with satisfaction at how our blog has created conversations surrounding the inclusion of people with disabilities into Jewish communal life, American-Israel relations and philanthropy.

Our blog is a home for leading experts and advocates, members of Israel’s Knesset (Parliament), parents, foundation workers, rabbis and Jewish leaders. We have heard from camps, organizations, schools, synagogues, Shabbat programs and more and learned how they are becoming more inclusive.

We have focused on tragedies and triumphs, discussed the changing Jewish community worldwide, conducted interviews, heard firsthand accounts of everyday people working for a more just society. The blog is a showcase of our community’s diversity and our constant will to create lasting change.

The biggest takeaway from our blog is the conversations that have started elsewhere and the many blogs which now discuss inclusion in the Jewish community. Our goal has always been to put this issue on the international Jewish agenda and this is slowly becoming a reality.

200 blog posts. We’re just getting started…

Please note: There will be no blog post on Thursday due to the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. Our next post, next Monday, will feature William Daroff of JFNA discussing the ADVANCE Conference.

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Disability As Lifelong Marathon

JayRudermanThe op-ed below appeared yesterday in The Times of Israel. Our foundation’s location- headquarters in both Israel and Boston- and our expertise in the area of disabilities gave us we believe a unique perspective on last week’s Boston Marathon bombings.

- Jay

Jeff Bauman is on my mind.

One week ago, two brothers carried out a despicable attack in Boston. Their targets were innocent civilians, marathon runners, fans, by-standers and local law enforcement officials. Their goal was to kill, hurt and maim. And unfortunately, they succeeded.

The foundation I represent is unique in the philanthropic world as we have headquarters both in Israel and in Boston. Living in Israel, terrorist attacks have unfortunately become part and parcel of life here. As soon as news breaks, we text everyone we know, constantly refresh news sites, wait for the latest updates.

But frantic phone calls to staff in Boston, ensuring people are OK, waiting for family members to check in overseas, was a surreal experience. Upside down, in fact. This hit close to home, 6,000 miles away.

Jeff Bauman, who lost both legs in the attack, and the other 170 injured people weren’t expecting to have their lives turned upside down. But those who sustained permanent disabilities have just joined a large swath of the population whose needs are not adequately met.

The US government estimates that 20 percent of the population has some form of disability. In Israel, approximately one million Israelis of working age have a disability. Some are born with a disability while other disabilities occur with age. So many people are affected – those with disabilities, their families, friends, co-workers, neighbors and communities.

But sometimes, a disability happens in an instant. A car accident, sports injury, a stroke and yes, terrorist attack. Jeff Bauman…. Healthy one minute, a person with a disability the next.

Continue reading the post on Times of Israel

Boston

Photo courtesy of instagram.com/p/YVclHcpREx

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Thank You!

JayRuderman244 and  41. Those two numbers amaze me.

Our foundation announced the 2013 Ruderman Prize in Disability eligibility guidelines 5 weeks ago and on Monday, the applications process ended. When I awoke Tuesday morning, I was astounded: 244 applications were submitted, a 41% increase over last year! From Cambodia, South Africa, Canada, Argentina, France, USA, Israel, Russia, UK, Brazil and more.

A thank you to our many partners who helped spread the word to as many Jewish communities as possible so we can recognize the fine work being performed by local organizations. I am encouraged that there are so many innovative programs around the world working towards the full inclusion of people with disabilities in Jewish communal life.

I want to personally thank everyone who took the time to fill out the application and share with us how you are making your community more inclusive. Now the hard part for our staff begins: Choosing only 5 winners from among a pool of very worthy candidates.

This initiative is meant to recognize past work in inclusion. There is still much work to be done so that every person with a disability feels welcome in his/her community. But seeing so many people around the world dedicated to this issue gives me hope that we are on the right path to full inclusion.

- Jay

Read our last post: But Words CAN Hurt Me!

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New MKs – the importance of your American cousins

Friends,

Today I write to share with you my recent op-ed in The Jerusalem Post.

Do you think Knesset members fully appreciate the importance of understanding the diverse perspectives of American Jews on Israel? If not, why not?

–Jay Ruderman

New MKs – the importance of your American cousins

By JAY RUDERMAN

The Jerusalem Post , 1/28/2013

As the American Jewish community’s connection to Israel evolves and changes, the people who will be our future leaders must understand these changes because Israel continues to rely on this most important community for our security.

The votes have been counted.

It appears that almost half the members of our new Knesset will be serving in the Knesset for the first time, and that there will be several new ministers in Israel’s next government. The faces of Israel’s elected officials are changing, and with that comes the prospect – and hope – that there will be broader understanding on the Israeli government’s part of the American Jewish community’s role in ensuring Israel’s security.

Much of the recent election campaign was focused on the significant social problems facing Israel.

Both new and returning MKs may confidently assume that the United States will continue to send Israel $3 billion every year in military aid.

Trends in the United States, however, lead to real concern about potential challenges to American support for Israel. Moreover, Knesset members – both new and returning – tend take the support of the American Jewish community for granted and do not fully understand the vital role this community plays in ensuring the US government’s continued support for Israel.

Many MKs both travel to the United States and meet American Jews visiting Israel, but the discussion is always a one-way conversation focused on Israel’s external threats and internal challenges.

Very rarely are Israel’s leaders presented with an opportunity to learn about the nature and concerns of the American Jewish community and how its connection to Israel is evolving.

DURING THE previous Knesset, Israel’s current homeland security minister, Avi Dichter, along with 10 other MKs from five different parties, visited the US as part of our Ruderman Family Foundation’s Ruderman Fellows Program. Minister Dichter remarked that, “After all of my years representing the State of Israel in key positions, this is the first time that I was truly exposed to the richness and complexity of American Jewry, its organizations, leaders and [the] challenges facing the community.”

He was shocked to find out that there is a debate in the US on the size of the Jewish population, with one organization claiming there are 5 million Jews and another stating the number is 6.2 million – a 25 percent difference.

There will be challenges to the US-Israel relationship in the near future. United States Senator Rand Paul, who recently visited Israel and has been talked about as a presidential candidate in 2016, advocates for a reduction in American foreign aid. While Senator Paul would like to see all foreign aid reduced, this action would have an outsized effect on Israel, which receives so much aid in relation to other countries.

In addition, Senator Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s new nominee for secretary of defense, has in the past been critical of the role of the “Jewish lobby.”

President Obama’s second-term team and Israel’s new administration may see Israel’s challenges very differently and these differing world views may be the cause for new stresses in the vital relationship between the United States and Israel. It seems clear that Israel will face challenges in the US political system, and must be prepared to deal with these challenges.

WHAT OUR new MKs need to understand is that America’s military aid to Israel, the $3b. that has been provided year after year, cannot be taken for granted and that the best way to ensure that this vital aid continues is through the political work of the American Jewish community. Despite senators Paul and Hagel, the vast majority of Members of Congress are strongly supportive of Israel and foreign aid.

These strong supporters of Israel in Congress have been educated and supported by the American Jewish community.

The Knesset must internalize the vital role that the American Jewish community plays in ensuring Israel’s security and spend time understanding how this important community connects to Israel.

Knesset members must understand how the assimilation of the American Jewish community will impact Israel and what they can do to speak to and strengthen Israel’s ties to this growing part of the Jewish community in the United States.

They also need to understand how American Reform, Conservative and even modern Orthodox Jewish communities relate to Israel and understand that when Israel decides issues such as “who is a Jew” it impacts these important relationships.

American Jews and their Israeli counterparts differ in many ways and live in different realities, but the two communities are interconnected and interdependent, and this cannot be overlooked.

As the American Jewish community’s connection to Israel evolves and changes, the people who will be our future leaders must understand these changes because Israel continues to rely on this most important community for our security. We need our American Jewish cousins because we cannot face our future challenges alone.

The writer is the president of the Ruderman Family Foundation.

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ReelAbilities Disabilities Film Festival

Friends,

Again this year we are pleased to join with several other foundations in supporting the ReelAbilities Disabilities Film Festival.  This collection of carefully curated films provides surprising and enjoyable glimpses into the lives of people around the world who happen to have disabilities.  The full schedule of screenings and venues can be found here; those of you in Boston are warmly invited to join us for any and all of them.

–Jay Ruderman

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Just the Beginning

Friends,

Many of my Christian friends tell me they are struggling to enjoy the Christmas season this year because the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut are still so fresh in all our minds. This is one among many outcomes of this horrifying event, and I believe there will be countless more outcomes over the coming months and years.  It is too early to know exactly how this event will change U.S. society, but it will be changed– much in the way 9/11 changed us collectively, forever.

Those of us who advocate for the full inclusion of people with disabilities of all kinds are watching the situation closely to guard against any kind of backlash, and to be sure all future policy actions are based on thoughtful reliance on evidence rather than knee-jerk reactions based on fear and prejudice.

As my colleague Jo Ann Simons notes below, we are just beginning this conversation on what we have learned from Newtown and where to go from here.  I think her recent piece is worth revisiting on Christmas Eve, a time when Christians mark an important new beginning in their faith.

All of us at the Ruderman Family Foundation wish our Christian friends a Merry Christmas, hoping you can experience moments of peace and even joy during this holiday season.

–Jay Ruderman

Forced to Listen

By Jo Ann Simons, Disability Advisor to the Ruderman Family Foundation; President and CEO of the Cardinal Cushing Centers

The television at my home– and in homes throughout the world– has been tuned into the nonstop coverage of the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.  I feel it is my duty to listen to the news of the latest investigation of this horrific crime and watch the tributes to the victims. Somehow I feel like I am paying my respects, but mostly I am trying to comfort myself. I am trying to make sense of the senseless. I am trying to convince myself that my children are safe, our students and clients are safe, I am safe, and my country is safe. I am rationalizing that the likelihood of this kind of horrific crime occurring again is unlikely.

I am kidding myself. These kind of mass shootings are becoming more frequent and yet we have done nothing to reduce the availability of automatic weapons.

But this time something has happened. We have begun a discussion about mental illness, Asperger’s and autism. It has been thoughtful and meaningful. The world is learning what we already know: people with autism and Asperger’s are not prone to violence. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder, present from childhood.  People with diagnoses on what is called the “autism spectrum” demonstrate compassion and empathy. They are wonderful sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.  They live, play, learn and work successfully among us. In fact, one of the Sandy Hook children had autism and she was slaughtered with her aide and special education teacher.

We have also learned that mental illness usually develops in the late teen or early adult years, although it sometimes appears in childhood.  Societal stigmas and the gaping lack of services make it difficult to identify and even more difficult to treat. Families feel hopeless and desperate and are often forced to turn to the only remedy available: the criminal justice system.  In this system mental illness typically goes undiagnosed and almost always untreated.

A national discussion has begun and people who have never been part of it before are showing up to educate us.  Doctors Sanjay Gupta and Mehmet Oz have begun teaching us about the minds of people with mental illness and about distinguishing mental illness from autism. They and many others are calling out for a better mental health system.

Are we listening?

–Jo Ann Simons

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Forced to Listen

Friends, 

Today I write with sadness as I hear more news from friends and family in the U.S. about the tragic school shooting in Connecticut.  I cannot imagine the grief engulfing the loved ones of the victims, and indeed the entire community of Newtown.  Shira and I extend our deep condolences to everyone impacted by this terrible event.

The enormous publicity about this event demands that we as disability advocates monitor the messages conveyed by the media about disabilities, and correct any that inaccurately portray people with either neurological disabilities or mental illness.  Media reports suggest the shooter in this case may have carried both diagnoses.

Below I share with you reflections on this moment from Jo Ann Simons, advisor to our foundation and frequent blogger in this space.  She also leads an educational institution and so is especially attuned to the fears we all have for the safety of our schools and our schoolchildren. 

Let us honor the victims by forcing a national conversation on mental illness that is thoughtful, well-informed, and dedicated to preventing future tragedies. 

–Jay Ruderman

 

Forced to Listen

By Jo Ann Simons, Disability Advisor to the Ruderman Family Foundation; President and CEO of the Cardinal Cushing Centers

The television at my home– and in homes throughout the world– has been tuned into the nonstop coverage of the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.  I feel it is my duty to listen to the news of the latest investigation of this horrific crime and watch the tributes to the victims. Somehow I feel like I am paying my respects, but mostly I am trying to comfort myself. I am trying to make sense of the senseless. I am trying to convince myself that my children are safe, our students and clients are safe, I am safe, and my country is safe. I am rationalizing that the likelihood of this kind of horrific crime occurring again is unlikely. 

I am kidding myself. These kind of mass shootings are becoming more frequent and yet we have done nothing to reduce the availability of automatic weapons.

But this time something has happened. We have begun a discussion about mental illness, Asperger’s and autism. It has been thoughtful and meaningful. The world is learning what we already know: people with autism and Asperger’s are not prone to violence. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder, present from childhood.  People with diagnoses on what is called the “autism spectrum” demonstrate compassion and empathy. They are wonderful sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.  They live, play, learn and work successfully among us. In fact, one of the Sandy Hook children had autism and she was slaughtered with her aide and special education teacher. 

We have also learned that mental illness usually develops in the late teen or early adult years, although it sometimes appears in childhood.  Societal stigmas and the gaping lack of services make it difficult to identify and even more difficult to treat. Families feel hopeless and desperate and are often forced to turn to the only remedy available: the criminal justice system.  In this system mental illness typically goes undiagnosed and almost always untreated. 

A national discussion has begun and people who have never been part of it before are showing up to educate us.  Doctors Sanjay Gupta and Mehmet Oz have begun teaching us about the minds of people with mental illness and about distinguishing mental illness from autism. They and many others are calling out to rebuild our mental health system.

Are we listening?

–Jo Ann Simons

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Kelim Shloovim: The Shopping Experience That Gives as Well as Gets

Friends,

Today I’m happy to introduce you to an innovative employment initiative in Israel. Recently Shikum Acher opened a gift shop on one of Tel Aviv’s most fashionable shopping districts. The shop is staffed by people with disabilities and markets high-end products made by people with disabilities. Shikum Acher’s store not only represents a successful employment model but also demonstrates inclusion to the public every day.

– Jay Ruderman

By Guest Blogger Michal Topaz, Executive Director & Founder of Shikum Acher

Eight years ago, while I was studying for my undergraduate degree, I volunteered at the Geha Psychiatric Hospital. I was exposed for the first time to people with mental illness as well as the widespread social stigma they must contend with. As a result I established Shikum Acher, a non-profit committed to developing progressive employment opportunities for people with mental health issues. The success of Shikum Acher motivated me to open Kelim Shloovim, a new store in central Tel Aviv operated by our clients.  It sells products from our factory, other non-profits, and numerous young Israeli designers. This is a new and innovative project that we hope will inspire similar initiatives in the future.

Shikum Acher’s store simultaneously increases the general public’s involvement with and awareness of the disability community. It serves as a social business initiative, providing respected and meaningful employment for members of that community– while reinvesting its profits into Shikum Acher programming. Working in the store better prepares people to work in the free market.

Kelim Shloovim is an extension of our website by the same name (www.kelimshloovim.org.il), and is a physical space in central Tel Aviv. The store is located on Dizengoff Street, one of Tel Aviv’s most popular shopping locations. It showcases the abilities of our constituents to create quality products and to run the store professionally.

The store constitutes a regular, mainstream job and steady source of income for individuals with mental illness, who have difficulty finding employment elsewhere. This framework of a non-stigmatized workplace that advocates integration and inclusion is known as a “social firm” and has been a successful model in other countries.

Tomer, one of Kelim Shloovim’s shift managers, has diagnoses of depression and borderline personality disorder. He commented, “Working here and being able to immerse myself in day-to-day tasks helps me maintain equilibrium, fills me with pride, and is helping me integrate back into society.”

Opening our beautiful new store has provided Shikum Acher the opportunity to multiply the positive impacts we have on the disability community and on Israeli society as a whole.

Visit Kelim Shloovin online at www.kelimshloovim.org.il, or in Tel Aviv at 229 Dizengoff Street.

– Michal Topaz

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Double Challenge: Disabilities in Time of War

Friends,

I want to share with you this snapshot of the recent military conflict in Israel vis a vis people with disabilities.  It was sent to me and my wife Shira by Avital Sandler-Loeff, the Director of Israel Unlimited (a project of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, our foundation, and the government of Israel).

–Jay Ruderman

Dear Jay and Shira,

I am writing to describe to you some of the activities undertaken on the ground by Israel Unlimited during the recent conflict with Hamas.

Toward the end of the conflict we learned that a 45-year-old woman who used a wheelchair (and had two daughters with schizophrenia) had been sleeping on the floor in the corridor for a week because she was afraid she would not be able to get out of bed on time during the sirens at night. She called our Center for Independent Living (CIL) in Beer Sheeva. Our volunteers from the CIL arranged a room for her and her daughters in Kibbutz Hagoshrim in the upper Galilee.  Soon she was able to get a good night’s sleep in a real bed.

Over the course of the conflict those of us from Israel Unlimited– with the help of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA)– distributed 125 portable toilet kits, 300 first aid kits, and provided direct service to hundreds of people with disabilities in Beer Sheeva.  We worked with the emergency coordinator there and fifteen volunteers from Ben Gurion University. We were able to move almost 200 people with mental illness to more peaceful accommodations outside of the conflict region of Negev. Our coordinators in the affected communities in the Negev and the whole accessibility community worked around the clock. We checked people’s needs constantly and reacted very quickly.

Let us hope that the fire cease will continue to hold.

Avital

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