Tag Archives: Hebrew SeniorLife

Opening Abraham’s Tent in Baltimore, Delaware, Boston… and Beyond


Today I’m sharing with you an op-ed that ran recently in the Jewish Advocate here in Boston.  It was written by my sister and Ruderman Family Foundation Trustee Sharon Shapiro and our colleague in the struggle for inclusion, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi.  As you see, signs of progress in our community are everywhere.

–Jay Ruderman

Boston sets example for full inclusion of disabled

The Jewish Advocate, November 28, 2012

Recently, we had the honor of participating in an informative and inspiring conference in Baltimore titled, “Opening Abraham’s Tent: The Disability Inclusion Initiative.”  This conference was proof that, finally, the right people are “on the bus” to help ensure that people with disabilities and their families are fully included in Jewish life in communities across North America.  It also validated the model for inclusion that has been developed here in Boston.

The conference resulted from a partnership of The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), the Jewish Funders Network (JFN) and the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes (JFGH).

The caliber of the people in the room, including top staff from JFNA and many of the largest federations, demonstrated the importance of this issue. These organizations, which collectively raise billions each year to support Jewish causes, can do more for inclusion than any other network in the Jewish community.

An important first step is work done by JFNA’s Disability Committee, which developed the “Four Key Elements of Inclusion,” a framework to guide federations and affiliated agencies to achieve meaningful progress toward inclusion.

  • Accessibility — Ensuring that people with disabilities can access Jewish institutions in our communities and all of the activities held within them.
  • Acceptance — Understanding that each one of us has a role to play so that all people are welcome and can participate in meaningful ways.
  • Accommodation — Adapting and modifying the environment or programming to allow people with disabilities to actively participate.
  • Welcoming — Treating people with disabilities and their families with respect and dignity, while creating a sense of unity within the Jewish community.

Agreeing to these elements was an important milestone, but actions mean more than words, and the commitment to these principles must come from the entirety of our communities.  Therefore, it was meaningful that the gathering included luminaries in the field from all different walks of Jewish life, as well as representatives from the breadth of religious, Jewish social service, and educational organizations.

Delaware Governor Jack Markell, who keynoted the program, is Jewish and served on his local Federation board and as a member of the JFNA Young Leadership Cabinet.

As chairman of the National Governors Association, Governor Markell has focused his efforts on employment issues for individuals with disabilities.  His initiative, A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities is working to bring people with disabilities into the workforce by focusing on their abilities, not their disabilities.  He is meeting with governors and businesses across the country to advance opportunities for these individuals to be gainfully employed in the competitive labor market.  During his speech, Markell inspired federations and other Jewish organizations to “walk the walk” and be even more inclusive not only in whom they serve, but also in whom they hire.

In Boston, the Ruderman Family Foundation, in partnership with Combined Jewish Philanthropies has funded groundbreaking initiatives that provide inclusive opportunities for members of our community. Among them are Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, which helps children with disabilities in Greater Boston to access Jewish learning services.  Another program, Transitions, which partners with the Jewish Vocational Service, funds an innovative employment program for young adults with disabilities to obtain job training at a site (Hebrew SeniorLife’s NewBridge on the Charles) that can potentially employ them after training. This pioneering program aims to increase the low employment rates among persons with disabilities.

In addition to these programs, Boston is blessed with agencies, synagogues and initiatives that provide housing, employment, education, friendship, camping, case management and advocacy services to people with disabilities and their families.

It is clear that every Jewish person must be included in order for the Jewish people as a whole to be truly united as one. The work done by CJP and other Jewish philanthropic organizations in Boston is ushering in a new era of accessibility, acceptance, and accommodation to welcome everyone into our Jewish community.

We believe that while much is left to be done, Boston is a model for the full inclusion of people with disabilities.  This is a cue for the rest of the Jewish world not to trail behind.

Sharon Ruderman Shapiro is Vice President of the Ruderman Family Foundation of Newton and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi is the Founder & President of Laszlo Strategies and co-director of the Mizrahi Family Charitable Trust, which was a cosponsor and funder of the conference.


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Transitioning to the Workplace: The Governor’s Reaction


Many of you know that a couple of weeks ago Massachusetts Governor Patrick Duval toured our new Transition to Work job-training program for young Jewish adults with disabilities. But what you may not be aware of is his reaction.

Witnessing the multi-disciplinary approach to job training and placement at NewBridge on the Charles in Dedham, MA, the governor had positive feedback for the partners who are helping our Foundation make this program possible: Jewish Vocational Service,  Combined Jewish Philanthropies and Hebrew SeniorLife. The latter already has six of these young adults training at various jobs in its NewBridge facility.

After watching these young adults at work, the Governor attended a luncheon where he remarked that 240,000 people of all abilities are looking for work in Massachusetts, and that there are 120,000 open positions. “How is there so much opportunity with so many people still looking for a chance?” he asked, adding that the Transition to Work program is one answer to this stalemate.

“There is too much to do to risk leaving anyone behind,” the Governor concluded. “Everyone deserves an opportunity to be a part of the workforce … everybody counts, and that’s what this program is about. Everyone deserves an opportunity to live, to learn, to play, to work to the fullest extent possible for all of their days. As long as there are people without jobs and jobs without people, our work is not done.”

— Jay Ruderman

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Good Jobs for Young Adults with Disabilities

We’ve just launched an important new initiative — a $2.5 million grant to Combined Jewish Philanthropies to fund the new Young Adult Transitions to Work program. Run by Jewish Vocational Services, the program will provide job training, placement and ongoing support for young adults with disabilities.  Continue reading

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