Category Archives: Philanthropy trends

Boston’s Shining Example

This op-ed originally appeared in The Jewish Advocate in Boston. The op-ed discusses the differences between philanthropy in the US and in Israel- and the unique place our foundation occupies in the philanthropic world.


JayRudermanPhilanthropy has no borders.

The Jewish community enthusiastically supports multiple causes at home and around the world. When Jews in Ethiopia need to be airlifted to Israel, our people spring into action immediately. When millions were unable to leave the former Soviet Union, Jews across the globe rallied behind the cry of “Let my people go!” We support our local synagogues and schools, social programs in Israel, Jews in need wherever they reside.

The values of social justice, tikun olam (repairing the world), gemilut chasadim (kindness to one another) are shared by Jews everywhere. The conversation does not end when we talk about these values but it galvanizes us to action, to donating funds or volunteering our time, whether at home or abroad.

Since Israel’s creation as a State, Jewish philanthropy has grown exponentially. The 2,000 year dream of having an independent Jewish State and the pride of being able to donate to causes in Israel has been a driving force behind the billions of dollars that are donated to organizations in Israel annually. Philanthropists have adopted specific causes and used strategic giving to mold a better and more just society.

Within Israel, however, the situation is very different. Until recently, philanthropic giving has mostly been via private initiatives and failed to stir a public discussion of how collaborative and effective giving can create change. In this regard, local philanthropy was nowhere near as mature as its counterparts in the US and Europe. Overall, Israeli philanthropists have not been strategic in their giving.

But that is beginning to change- and that change is happening because Israeli philanthropists are being introduced to successful models of philanthropy. In the US, philanthropists have many models to learn from- both national and local. In Israel, successful philanthropic models are few and far between.

We feel that our foundation occupies a unique place in the Jewish philanthropic world. We maintain headquarters and a full staff both in Boston and in Israel. We are deeply involved with major organizations in both places and have partnerships on the ground meant to create a better society. In Israel, we are identified as representatives of the Boston Jewish community. In fact, after the recent Marathon attacks, leaders in Israel reached out to us to express sympathy and see how they can help.

Picture courtesy of

Picture courtesy of

We are proud of the many partnerships we have in Boston and the dedicated people who have worked tirelessly to make an impact- whether through the inclusion of children with disabilities into local schools, finding employment opportunities for people with disabilities or programs meant to change attitudes and create the most inclusive Jewish community in North America. Philanthropists can learn from the accomplishments of the Boston Jewish community and the impact these programs have generated.

Committed to Give

We have taken our successful philanthropic model in Boston and begun to implement it in Israel. We have made the connection between our core issue in the US and what we work on in Israel (the inclusion of people with disabilities). Most foundations don’t operate this way- they have one cause in the US and a different one in Israel. We decided that the connection has to be consistent, one cause across all borders to maximize change.

Our work and deep involvement in the Boston community in changing attitudes and creating change on the ground has helped us replicate that success in Israel. We have formed strategic partnerships with the Israeli  government, umbrella Jewish organizations and local nonprofits. We have sponsored projects meant to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities and we are slowly starting to change attitudes as the issue comes to the forefront.

More importantly, our philanthropic work has also provided us the opportunity to influence the philanthropic conversation in Israel. We have convened leading Israeli philanthropists and business leaders to encourage them to become more public about their giving and to use their standing to transform Israeli society into one which is more just and leaves no one behind.

As a result of these conversations, the “Committed to Give” group was formed. The “Committed to Give” group is working to transform Israeli philanthropy by

– Changing the culture of giving in Israel
– Increasing the number of philanthropists
–  Moving Israeli philanthropy towards professionalism and strategic giving
– Forming collaborative efforts to put particular issues on the national agenda

Our ability to use Boston as a shining example of community philanthropy is an excellent resource for Israeli philanthropists to learn from. They learn how to partner effectively with organizations, how to advocate for change and what criteria is necessary to measure impact on the ground. They see success and want to replicate it, with a local flavor.

Working to effect change in a country is different than in an American Jewish community.  Philanthropists have to be more strategic in their thinking, build more coalitions and have the ability to be more centralized. And when you partner with the government, things may move slower than working on the local level. But understanding these issues will help motivate Israeli philanthropists to implement their funding strategy.

As Israeli philanthropy begins to grow and mature, we look forward to the next stage of the discussion: If philanthropy really has no borders, then Israeli philanthropists should look to help Jewish causes OUTSIDE of Israel. US philanthropists work in both countries and so should Israeli funders. Creating that two-way street will ultimately benefit and sustain Jewish giving for years to come.


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Being in Two Places at Once: Our Foundation’s Challenge and Advantage


I’m writing to share an op-ed I wrote this week for  I have been reflecting on why — even with the logistical difficulties of running a foundation with offices thousands of miles apart — the strategic advantages to having a dual presence far outweigh the challenges.

As always, I welcome your comments.

— Jay

Being in Two Places at Once

by Jay Ruderman

There’s an old Yiddish expression that says you can’t have “ein tuchus oft da ganze velt” or, simply put, you can’t be all over the place at once.

But like many foundations today, our agenda transcends nations. We work toward the goal of full inclusion for Jews with disabilities wherever they may live and we also seek to strengthen the bond between Israel and the Jewish community in the United States.

Unlike many foundations, however, we felt we could not be fully effective at this work without a physical presence in both Israel and in the U.S. Our foundation is one of the few to have its principal decision maker live in Israel, while keeping the organization headquartered in the U.S. This unusual arrangement has given us a broader perspective from which our organization and those we serve truly benefit. It has also given us the opportunity to be a peer-to-peer resource for other funders in both the U.S. and Israel.

There are times that the increased coordination required by this arrangement is challenging. But the advantage of having feet on the ground in both places, and the additional involvement with grantee programs that it provides, cannot be measured. We believe that our twin locations provide us with a distinct perspective on philanthropy. Being in two far-away places at one time truly lets us understand the special and unique relationship between Israel and the U.S. Jewish community and how to most effectively pursue our foundation and program goals.

Looking back to Israel’s failed ad campaign in 2011 to woo expatriates to return home, we had a unique vantage point. We could both see the particular forces in Israel that led to the development of the campaign and better understand why it was so poorly received among American Jews.

More recently, during the military conflict with Hamas, we were able to provide our partners in the U.S. with a first-hand account of what it was like in Israel living beneath the thunder of the Iron Dome explosions, as Israeli anti-missile defenses collided with incoming rockets from Hamas, and also report to the public about how Israelis with disabilities were adversely impacted by a shortage of services during the crisis.

Such a perspective is helpful in an environment where major Israeli philanthropists tend not to fund programs outside of Israel. At the same time, many American foundations that fund programs in Israel do not have offices and staff here, even if they visit frequently.

The fact that I choose to live in Israel makes a statement to our board and partners that our foundation understands how Israeli civil society operates. It would be hard for our foundation to be as effective without this structure, in the same way that it would be hard for a newspaper to report on a community if it did not have a presence there.

Similarly, our Ruderman Fellows program, which brings Members of the Knesset to the U.S. so that they can learn more about the Jewish community in the U.S., benefits from our presence in both places. By being located in Israel we are able to directly recruit Members of the Knesset for the program and our operation in the U.S. is able to design the right experience for the participants as well as handle the thousands of details that make these trips a success.

The power of a dual or multi-location operation for foundations should not be underestimated today. In a world where information, influence, and contacts defy boundaries, the strategic advantage of being in two places at once often translates into the greater fulfillment of goals and the coalescing of mission.

Jay Ruderman is President of the Ruderman Family Foundation.  For more on this topic, please follow Zeh Lezeh, the Ruderman Family Foundation’s blog.

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Today we have another story about the Young Adult Transitions to Work Program we support here in Boston.  Enjoy a glimpse into one young woman’s working life and, as always, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments box provided.

You can learn more about Transitions here

— Jay Ruderman

Becky Cleinman tells us she loves everything about her life. She loves her neighborhood in Arlington, MA where she lives with her parents. She loves the dogs that live down the street. And she loves her job as a greeter at Au Bon Pain in Downtown Boston, an easy subway ride from home.

But mostly she loves her customers. “I see them every day and they know me,” says Cleinman. Although things can get pretty hectic around the lunch hour, she always manages to keep an eye open for her regulars and make sure they get taken care of.

Cleinman landed this job after completing Young Adult Transitions to Work, a groundbreaking new program the Ruderman Family Foundation established with two of our Boston-area partners: Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) and Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP).

Like many people with disabilities, the 23-year-old had found great difficulty obtaining meaningful employment. But as one of more than 30 area young adults who have completed the Transitions program, she has successfully learned a variety of job skills preparing her for employment. Like many of the others, she was placed in a job with a Boston-area employer—in this case, Au Bon Pain.  Another of these employers is Hebrew SeniorLife (one of the 40 largest employers in Massachusetts), which now has many Transitions graduates working at its residential centers for older adults.

Transitions doesn’t just train and place young adults with disabilities: it provides ongoing job support, maximizing the probability of success. For Cleinman, that means being able to connect with a staff member from the Transitions to Work program regularly.  “If I ever have a question, I can ask Meghan and sometimes she’ll come in and watch me and give me advice,” Cleinman says. “I know I can always call her.”

We are proud of Becky and of all of our Transitions graduates who are now able to enjoy the sense of productivity, confidence and independence that comes with a job. But with many more members of Boston’s Jewish community ready and eager to work, but still unemployed, the challenge is huge.  There is work ahead for all of us.

— Jay Ruderman


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The Boston Globe Helps Spread the Word: Multi-Sector Partnerships are Win-Win for Jobs for People with Disabilities


I invite you to check out the following Op-Ed by myself and Joanne F. Goldstein, Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development in Massachusetts It ran last week in The Boston Globe online; for your convenience we have posted it both as text and in a link. I’d be interested to hear your reactions, so feel free to share your thoughts in the comments box below.

Note: We will not be posting a blog this coming Monday in observance of Shemini Atzeret. We look forward to re-joining you next Thursday, October 11.

— Jay Ruderman


A Template For Job Training Programs For People With Disabilities

As the nation’s economy continues to recover and people return to the workforce, it is important to be mindful of the fact that people with disabilities still face barriers in the labor market.

In July, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics released new data that showed good news, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities fell to 13.6 percent in the second quarter of 2012. Yet it also showed that only one in five were participating in the labor market. The unemployment rate does not reflect that many people with disabilities, frustrated by workplaces that are unwelcome, may have simply given up their job searches or that the unemployment rate for those without disabilities is 8.4 percent, over five points lower.

Such sobering statistics remind us that we cannot be complacent in our work on behalf of people with disabilities. People with disabilities want to work, and given the opportunity, are among the most committed and dedicated employees. They often contribute to creating positive cultures within their organizations.

We must encourage more employers to be open to – and even proactive in – hiring a person with a disability. A handful of companies have been pioneers in this regard; they recognize the positive impact these hiring practices have on their bottom lines.

There is a concerted federal effort to create opportunities for people with disabilities. President Obama issued an executive order that set a goal: by 2015, ensure that 100,000 federal workforce hires are people with disabilities. This order has already reversed a nine-year decline in the federal employment participation rate for working age people with disabilities.

In Massachusetts, the Patrick administration continues to advance a number of initiatives as well. Governor Patrick’s Strategic Plan to Make Massachusetts a Model Employer for People with Disabilities provides a set of recommendations for affirmatively promoting the hiring and retention of people with disabilities in the executive branch of state government. Since the effort commenced in 2007, the percentage of persons with a disability employed in the executive branch increased by approximately 70 percent. The state also secured grant funding to outfit the Commonwealth’s 34 One-Stop Career Centers with assistive technology, and it restructured programs to be more responsive to the needs of clients with disabilities.

But no one sector can do this alone. Partnership allows foundations, private industry, and the public sector to leverage their advantages and overcome their limitations.

When the three work together, they maximize their impact and expedite progress for people with disabilities. This is the model that the Ruderman Family Foundation supports with its funding of Transitions to Work, a template for future job training programs for people with disabilities.

Those enrolled in Transitions to Work learn, help, and develop specific job skills within Hebrew Senior Life’s NewBridge on the Charles campus, a retirement community just outside of Boston. Following specific training and learning, individuals are qualified to work, either full-time or part-time, at NewBridge, and are matched with vacant positions when they become available.

This innovative program, with support from the Ruderman Family Foundation and Combined Jewish Philanthropies and run by Jewish Vocational Services, is instilling something even more valuable than job training: self-esteem.

This year, Governor Patrick visited NewBridge on the Charles and praised the program for its innovative approach. As he spoke to the young men and women in the program, he talked about the irony that despite this very rough economy, there are still thousands of jobs in the state that remain unfilled because there are no qualified candidates. We must not accept this statistic.

We believe that partnership is the answer. We accomplish more together. We encourage employers, foundations, and the public sector to explore opportunities for collaboration. Such partnerships are win-win, and we believe they are the sharpest arrow in our quiver to increase employment among people with disabilities.

Jay Ruderman is president of the Ruderman Family Foundation. Joanne F. Goldstein is secretary of Labor and Workforce Development in Massachusetts.

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Meeting the Religious Needs of ALL Students: An Op-Ed

Dear Friends,

I am writing to share with you my op-ed from last week’s Albany Times-Union. It addresses the legal right of all children to attend the private schools that reflect their families’ religious beliefs and traditions—including children with special educational needs. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the subject in the comment boxes below.

— Jay Ruderman

How to Meet Religious Needs of Students

It has been legally established for close to 40 years that children in America with disabilities are entitled to a “free and appropriate education.”

Full inclusion in access to education is a right — one that is legally protected in our country.

This right for a “free and appropriate public education” — commonly called FAPE — was codified in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Further protection of the education rights of those with disabilities was secured with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004.

What happens, though, when a school or school district cannot provide a FAPE?

Then a student is permitted under the Rehabilitation Act to attend another public school, or a private school, which can make available that education. And as the law requires, costs for the student attending the new school are the partial or total obligation of the school district from which the student transferred.

Yet what neither the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 nor IDEA provide for are the needs of children with disabilities who are brought up in devout religious traditions, where public school is not an option because of these beliefs. These children face additional challenges, because the laws do not allow for public money to be spent for the secular portion of an education that also meets the religious and cultural needs of the students.

Earlier this summer, Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill which passed with strong support in both houses of the state Legislature that would change the FAPE reimbursement regulations and require public school districts to pay costs associated with children with disabilities learning in an environment — such as a religious academy — in which they are most comfortable.

It is encouraging that New York legislators are marshaling support for another go at passing the bill — which is expected to include overriding another Gov. Cuomo veto — in a special legislative session this fall.

In certain situations, it is both appropriate and fair that there be public reimbursement of the cost of educating a person with disabilities in a private school that conforms to their religious beliefs.

There is a long and successful track record of public spending on private education; this is the case with Pell Grants, publicly financed scholarships which can be used to attend public or private colleges or universities, including places like Notre Dame or Yeshiva University.

There are needs-based government vouchers that parents apply toward the payment for child care — whether it is an Islamic academy, a Jewish community center, or a Catholic Charities child care program. And what about charter schools, which get public funding but are not subject to the rules and regulations by which public schools must adhere?

Our foundation first became involved because Jewish children with disabilities could not in many cases attend Jewish day schools. They were shut out from a Jewish education on the basis of nothing else but their disability. It was unacceptable.

An appropriate education in a comfortable learning environment is the right of all our children. Achieving what’s right is often difficult — and it can take a while. Most certainly, it can get done.

In assuring the educational rights of all children, those with disabilities and those without, getting it done requires the private and public sectors working cooperatively — and recognizing, honoring, and sharing obligations.

Jay Ruderman is president of the Boston-based Ruderman Family Foundation


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Side-by-Side at the San Diego JCC: A Model of True Inclusion

Dear Friends,

Each week we introduce you to one of the ten recipients of the 2012 Ruderman Prize in Disability. Today I want to tell you about the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center (LFJCC) of San Diego and its innovative Inclusion Program.

From its beginning in 1995, this JCC has made a point of inviting children with disabilities to participate in all activities alongside their typically developing peers, rather than relegating them to separate programs.  Since children with disabilities often require additional support in order to fully participate, the LFJCC typically provides an aide for every one or two children with disabilities in their programs. These programs include preschool, after-school care, and Summer Camp Jaycee—which 61 children with disabilities attended this year while three young adults with developmental disabilities served as Counselors in Training. The LFJCC also offers a fully inclusive winter break camp and teen theater classes.

No wonder our judges called the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center of San Diego “a shining example of the kind of inclusion that the Ruderman Family Foundation foresees for the entire Jewish community,” adding, “from their example, we hope other organizations will soon recognize that separate programs are not equal.”

From all of us here at the Ruderman Family Foundation, congratulations to the Lawrence Family JCC for your pioneering programs. For seventeen years you have been a model for JCCs around the country and around the world.

— Jay Ruderman

NOTE: We will not publish a blog post on Monday due to Rosh Hashanah and will resume on Thursday with a very special Ruderman Family Foundation announcement.

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Shalva’s Good Will Ambassadors for Disabilities

Dear Friends,
Each week we introduce you to another of the ten recipients of the 2012 Ruderman Prize in Disability.  They all illustrate innovative methods of breaking down the barriers between people with disabilities and their communities.  Today we present the fifth in our series of profiles.
Shalva: The Center for Mentally and Physically Challenged Children and Their Families in Israel is one of the oldest disability organizations in the country.  Shalva’s mission, to connect children with disabilities (and their parents and siblings) with their communities in creative people-to-people ways, is accomplished through early intervention programs, camps, and educational opportunities, among other transformative initiatives.
Shalva’s “Special Interview Project” is the specific initiative we are recognizing with the Ruderman Prize.  It represents an innovative partnership between Shalva and YNet, Israel’s largest electronic news source.  In this project two young adults, one with Down syndrome and the other with an intellectual disability, travel the country (and more recently the United States) interviewing prominent men and women. In the process, Matanei Bitton and Efat Dotan have become something of celebrities themselves, engendering appreciation and acceptance wherever they go.
The Special Interview Project impressed our judges with the interviewers’ openness and warmth and the poignancy of their interviews with prominent Israelis. The impact such human interaction has on Israeli society is considerable, thanks to YNet’s popularity.
From all of us here at the Ruderman Family Foundation, congratulations to Shalva for their barrier-breaking work in Israeli journalism.
— Jay Ruderman

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Special Needs in Jewish Education in the Spotlight: From Individual Difference to Institutional Inclusion

By Guest Blogger Renee Rubin Ross Ph.D., Program Officer, Jim Joseph Foundation

The recent Network for Research in Jewish Education conference (held this summer in Newton, MA) was bookended by two presentations on special needs in Jewish education. The opening plenary included researchers and practitioners, including Howard Blas, the director of the Tikveh Program at Camp Ramah, Don Wertleib, Korman Visiting Distinguished Professor of Special Education and Director of the Hebrew College Inclusive Education Roundtable (HIER), and  New York University doctoral student Abigail Uhrman, whose dissertation research explores parents’ experiences advocating for their children with special needs. At the end of the conference, a spotlight session explored special needs in Jewish education in the Boston area, including Gateways: Access to Jewish Education‘s advocacy and professional development work, and Combined Jewish Philanthropies’ (CJP)  support of Boston-area Jewish day schools working to intensify their cultures of inclusion.

There were several key takeaways. First, all Jewish institutions, educational and otherwise, are now under pressure to be inclusive toward youth with special needs. Why? As Alan Oliff, CJP’s Director of the Initiative for Day School Excellence, shared, the public school special education population has grown from 3.5 million in 1977 to almost 6 million currently.  Schools have been accommodating students with special needs on an individual basis (usually spurred on by a determined parent) since the 1970s or before. Now, public schools are including students with special needs in a more systemic manner; this may include professional development for all teachers and an overall culture of inclusion. As parents see that public schools are able to do this, they expect the same for Jewish education. The CJP B’Yadenu initiative, funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Ruderman Family Foundation, is one attempt to provide Jewish day schools with the training and resources to more systemically include special needs students.

Second, until now there has been little research on special needs in Jewish education. The assignment during the plenary was to suggest two research questions that would be worth exploring. Our knowledge is so limited at this point that one valuable direction would be to scan the field (for example, the kind of information that JData is collecting in some communities) to better understand policies and practices towards special needs in Jewish education.

Lastly, these conversations provided an opportunity to consider how Jewish tradition informs our responsibility to work towards more inclusive educational structures. Ramah is an instructive example: the Tikveh program is so embedded in some Ramah camps that campers learn that a Jewish community is one that is inclusive of people with disabilities. It is worth reflecting on how more educational institutions might bring this vision of an inclusive Jewish community to life.

— Renee Rubin Ross

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Announcing: A New Opportunity for Social Entrepreneurs in the Field of Inclusion and Disabilities in the Jewish Community

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to announce a wonderful new opportunity for advancing inclusion in the Jewish community.

The Joshua Venture Group (JVG) is searching for a committed, passionate social entrepreneur who has a groundbreaking idea that will shift the Jewish communal landscape through advancing inclusion and public awareness of people with disabilities.

In partnership with the Ruderman Family Foundation, JVG has opened the application process for the 2012-2014 Ruderman Fellowship.

The 2012-2014 Ruderman Fellow will join JVG’s 2012-2014 Dual Investment Program, in which emerging leaders receive over $100,000 in funding, technical support, and skills development.

The winning person and project will advance inclusion and public awareness of people with disabilities and may include:

·      Innovative use of social media by and for the Jewish disability community.

·      Addressing issues related to employment within the Jewish community.

·      Any issue of importance regarding disabilities in the Jewish community with the exception of Jewish education.

The submission deadline is 1:00 p.m. EST on Friday, July 20. For the application, eligibility rules and criteria, visit

In all of its work, JVG seeks to reinvigorate and expand the Jewish community by cultivating the leadership and management capability of talented, passionate young Jewish social entrepreneurs, and by investing in their visions and in the growth of healthy, sustainable organizations.

I look forward to keeping you posted on this exciting new partnership initiative between our Foundation and the Joshua Venture Group.

— Jay Ruderman



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Top Companies Do Well by Doing Good: Employing Those with Disabilities

By Jay Ruderman


Here’s an op-ed Leo Vercollone and I had in the Boston Business Journal on Friday:

Hiring the Disabled is Good Business

— Jay Ruderman

Date: Friday, June 8, 2012, 6:00am EDT

IBM, KPMG, Kaiser Permanente, Aetna, Ernst & Young, Procter & Gamble, Merck & Co., Deloitte, Sodexo, and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. These companies are among the most successful and recognized in the world. They are international enterprises with strong brands. Collectively they generate hundreds of billions of dollars annually in revenue.

And they are world leaders in an area that is vital and integral to business performing optimally and achieving its fullest potential: recruiting and hiring people with disabilities. These organizations constitute “The DiversityInc. Top 10 Companies for People With Disabilities” for 2011.

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. It was a milestone in U.S. civil rights history and, since enacted, it has served as a foundation of protection for the equal rights of people with disabilities and their access to public transportation, office buildings, and bathrooms. The ADA was a big and necessary step that benefited all.

There are more steps to be taken. Patricia Shiu, director of the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), took one of those steps in December when she proposed a labor rule that requires companies with federal contracts to maintain a labor force where no fewer than 7 percent of those employed have disabilities.

When a society takes the initiative in recruiting and hiring those with disabilities, it avails itself of a worker population that has proved to be exceedingly reliable, trustworthy, thorough and committed for the long haul.

The national unemployment rate for people without a disability is 8.1 percent. But for those with disabilities, the unemployment rate is much higher. The OFCCP initiative is a civil rights initiative that will encourage and support employers’ increasing efforts to hire people with disabilities. These efforts will in turn strengthen all business sectors and the U.S. economy.

The federal government cannot compel all businesses to hire people with disabilities. But it can use its leverage with federal contractors to make change. Some opponents say the government should use carrots instead of sticks. Reserving a mere 7 percent of positions, when an abundant talent pool exists and when people with disabilities have proved to be such good workers, hardly seems a stick at all.

The Obama administration policy makes social justice a winner and will begin to lower the unemployment rate for people with disabilities. But just as important, it is good for business.

Jay Ruderman is president of the Ruderman Family Foundation. Leo Vercollone is president of VERC Enterprises of Duxbury.

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