A man in a wheelchair [Illustrative]..
(photo credit: Carlos Jasso/Reuters)
NEW YORK – The ADVANCE Ruderman Special Needs Funding Conference held in New
York Tuesday highlighted the challenges of including disabled individuals in the
Jewish community and announced a new global prize to reward efforts to do
The new global initiative will distribute up to $200,000 each year to
up to 10 nonprofit organizations demonstrating inclusion of the disabled in the
Jewish community. The Ruderman Family Foundation, dedicated to focusing on
individuals with disabilities in the Jewish community, fills an unmet need,
founder Jay Ruderman said.
The idea behind the prize, Ruderman said, is
to find out which programs in the Jewish world are doing the best job at
including people with disabilities, and to give them both credit and financial
He also hopes the prize will raise the profile of the issue
within the Jewish community.
“I think that our community is obsessed with
continuity, which makes perfect sense,” Ruderman said of the Jewish community at
large. “However, the way that we deal with continuity is to run after the best
and the brightest, seeing them as the future – and not including those with
needs who really want to be integral members of our community.”
the disabled, Ruderman said, is a poor reflection of the ethos of the Jewish
community, and hopefully an inaccurate one.
“We see all these great
programs coming about, but we are still in a community where there are day
schools, synagogues and camps that are not inclusive – and for me, the whole
point of being Jewish is about helping those who are less fortunate and trying
to improve the lives of those around us,” Ruderman said. “If we’re not into
that, it’s not a very attractive religion.
“We focus on inclusion –
raising awareness in our community as to why it’s important, and we try to form
alliances with other foundations and other major Jewish organizations to try to
accomplish that goal,” he continued.
The ADVANCE conference was designed,
Ruderman said, “to pull together fellow funders and learn from one another, but
essentially to network and find out how we can do things better together.”
Topics of discussion ranged from including the disabled in funding programs to
envisioning the next generation of family support services.
is a business,” he said. “In a for-profit business, you wouldn’t get involved if
you didn’t know your partners.”