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October 9, 2015 | 26th Tishrei 5776

Reform Movement Highlights Disabilities Awareness and Initiatives

URJ Camp Coleman Launches Vocational Staff Training Program for Young Adults with Disabilities

Contact : Annette Powers
February 6, 2014, New York, NY -- February is Jewish Disability Awareness Month, a time when the entire Jewish community comes together to raise awareness and support efforts to foster inclusion of people with disabilities and their families in Jewish communities worldwide. Shelly Christensen, a member of the URJ Faculty, founded Jewish Disability Awareness Month (JDAM) in 2009 with this mission:

“The goal of Jewish Disability Awareness Month is to shift our attitudes to see that having a disability is part of the human condition-and to see that humanity in each person we meet. Jewish Disability Awareness Month is universally recognized in February, but the need to belong and be included goes on month after month, day after day.”

The Reform Movement is observing JDAM by promoting resources to help congregations be at the forefront of communal inclusion. Throughout February,'s blog will feature posts on disability-related topics; as will, RACBlog, NFTY’s blog, several Reform Movement newsletters, as the entire Movement comes together to elevate our values of inclusive, diverse and modern communities.

"The URJ’s pledge to ‘audacious hospitality’ includes a firm commitment to help our congregations become the safe, welcoming and loving spiritual homes they are meant to be so that every individual, regardless of ability, feels that they were created b’tzelem Elohim, in God’s image,” said URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs.

To foster broader cultural change, the Reform Movement is partnering to advocate for public policies that ensure equal rights for all. Today, the RAC and Jewish Federations of North American (JFNA) are hosting the annual Jewish Disability Advocacy Day, where participants lobby their officials directly on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and for swift passage of the ABLE Act.

URJ Camps are committed to providing a Reform Jewish summer experience to all children, including those with disabilities. Inclusion Coordinators, trained professionals hired by each of the URJ’s 14 camps, are prepared to work with caregivers and professionals to plan for and provide a fulfilling camp experience for all children.

In addition, URJ Camps offer several specific programs for young people with disabilities. URJ Kutz Camp in Warwick, NY, offers an inclusion-based Jewish summer-camping experience for teens ages 13-19 diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Camp Chazak, located at Eisner and Crane Lake Camps in Massachusetts, was developed for kids entering fifth through eighth grades whose social delays impair their ability to function in a typical camp environment.

And now, during JDAM, the URJ’s Camp Coleman in Cleveland, GA, is pleased to announce the Chadash program for young adults ages 18-24 with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. Chadash will provide vocational training in a supervised work setting along with an opportunity for the participants to join in a wide range of recreational, social, and educational components of camp life.

"Over the past several years, Camp Coleman and other URJ camps have taken steps to ensure that campers with developmental and intellectual disabilities can fully participate in our camps. Because of these efforts, we now have a population of young adults with disabilities who want to remain or become part of our camp staff,” said URJ Camp Coleman Director Bobby Harris. “Not only will the Chadash program teach important skills that these young people will be able to take away from camp, but the entire camp community will also see how the Reform Movement recognizes the contributions of every individual.”

For more information on URJ Camps for those with disabilities, visit:

Reform Judaism is Inclusive Judaism

Below are several programs, opportunities and resources the Reform Movement is pursuing as part of our commitment to inclusive Jewish life.

The URJ recently announced a new Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Initiative, which offers education to counter misconceptions about disabilities among community leaders and clergy, Jewish professionals, organizational leaders, and congregants, and to ensure full inclusion and participation of people with disabilities and their families in every aspect of Reform Jewish life.

Reform congregations are also invited to join the Disability Inclusion Active Learning Network, a 4-month program that offers opportunities for congregations to learn from professionals in the disabilities community, as well as from congregations that have successfully developed inclusion strategies that enrich congregational life, increase membership and strengthen sacred relationships among members.

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s resources Disability Rights page shares material for communities and congregations, articles, and information about the Reform Jewish community's advocacy efforts around disability issues. The Reform Jewish Movement has urged Congress to support ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and called for swift passage of the ABLE Act. Advocates can continue to contact their officials directly with our online advocacy actions:

Recently, the RAC partnered with the Reconstructionist, Conservative, and Orthodox Jewish communities, to create Hineinu, a comprehensive Jewish guide to creating inclusive communities.


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