Prizes to encourage Jewish disabled inclusion

ADVANCE Ruderman Special Needs Funding Conference announces new global prize for including disabled individuals in the Jewish community.

A man in a wheelchair [Illustrative]. (photo credit: Carlos Jasso/Reuters)
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 so.
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 support.
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.”
Excluding 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.
“Philanthropy is a business,” he said. “In a for-profit business, you wouldn’t get involved if you didn’t know your partners.”