Our foundation advocates and advances the full inclusion of people with disabilities into the Jewish community. Our foundation views inclusion not just from the aspect of fairness but also of survival: If 20% of the population (US government stat) has some form of disability, Jewish continuity depends on keeping everyone affiliated and engaged. Leaving 1/5 of the community on the outside looking in is counter-productive.
I am a former assistant district attorney in northern Massachusetts and deputy director of AIPAC. Through my work, I came to see what is involved in issues advocacy and mobilizing grassroots support. In 2004, our foundation collaborated with a Boston-based federation to confront the lack of access for children with disabilities in the Jewish community. This experience made clear how full inclusion was needed and this became the main focus of our foundation. A few years later, the cause hit home when my nephew was diagnosed with autism.
Our foundation maintains offices in both Boston and Israel. In both locations, we support programs that offer inclusive environments in the areas of education, housing, employment, summer camps, religious and organization life and much more. We partner with national organizations to train others to become more inclusive, to advocate for full inclusion when policy decisions are made and to ensure that Jewish life is available and accessible to all.
There is much to be done but over the last decade, I have seen the beginnings of a change in attitude and practice. As President of the foundation, I will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that everyone has a seat around the communal table. It won’t happen overnight but I am certain that we will achieve our ultimate goal: to create a fair and flourishing community.
Jay Ruderman is President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. To learn more about the foundation, please visit the foundation’s website or join the global inclusion conversation on our blog. You can also engage Jay and/or the foundation on Twitter and Like them on Facebook.
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