Winners of 2013 Ruderman Prize in Disability announced

Schools in Argentina, South Africa and St. Louis given awards for their handicapped integration efforts.

June 24, 2013 22:03
2 minute read.
JAY RUDERMAN,  of the Ruderman Family Foundation, with Israeli Paralympic athlete Pascale Bercovich.

Jay Ruderman Pascale Bercovich 370. (photo credit: Maxine Dovere )

The Ruderman Family Foundation announced on Monday the winners of its 2013 Ruderman Prize in Disability, which is awarded to organizations in the Jewish community worldwide that offer innovative programs and services aimed at advancing the integration of the disabled in society.

One of this year’s winners is the Escuela Communitaria Arlene Sern de la Fundacion Judaica, an inclusive school in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where children with disabilities are integrated into mainstream classrooms at kindergarten and elementary levels.

In Argentina, children with disabilities are usually separated from regular schools and study in special-needs schools.

The Bnai Amoona synagogue in St. Louis, Missouri, also won the prize for being fully accessible to the handicapped and operating educational programs for all children, including those with disabilities.

The Sunflower Bakery in Baltimore and Washington, DC, has also been awarded the prize for providing training aimed at preparing individuals with developmental or other cognitive disabilities – primarily young adults aged 18 to 27 – for employment in pastry-making, baking and other related industries.

The United Herzlia Schools in Cape Town, South Africa was also chosen for the award for its disabilities inclusion program, which helps some 80 pupils.

Lastly, the Israeli AMIT education organization has also been awarded the prize for its flagship institution for the inclusion of children with disabilities, Yeshivat Kfar Ganim, which serves 600 students, some 20% of whom experience serious physical or cognitive challenges. The yeshiva’s programs aim to enable its disabled students to integrate as much as possible, while educating other students and the local community about tolerance and understanding.

Director General of AMIT, Dr. Amnon Eldar said, "The integration of children with special needs in classrooms and educational campuses is a moral and religious obligation and as such, the Network is committed to investing as much as it can in promoting the project in all of its schools."

"We believe that the personal example set by our teachers and principals should be at the heart of what we do. The integration of special needs students is an educational example worth thousands of hours of teaching love, respect and acceptance of one another, as well as a contribution to society and the country," Eldar added.

The prize, which is being awarded for the second year, includes $250,000 in funding, to be divided between the five organizations.

“I cannot begin to describe the elation I felt when I heard that Herzlia was a recipient of the Ruderman Foundation Prize,” said Geoff Cohen, director of education at the Herzlia Schools. “We adopted an inclusion philosophy in 1997, and today, 17 years later in 2013, all our 10 campuses can proudly boast that we are inclusive schools that cater for all the children of the Cape Town Jewish community, no matter what their academic, physical or financial situation may be,” he added.

“It is so gratifying to know that our work in the area of inclusive education has been recognized and we are humbled and honored to be a recipient of this most prestigious prize.”

Jay Ruderman, president of the foundation, pointed out that four out of the five winners are organizations that don’t generally focus on the issue of disability but have developed “innovative programs to include people with disabilities in the overall mission of their organization.”

“We hope that they serve as shining examples for the rest of the Jewish world of how people with disabilities can be included in all aspects of life,” he said.

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