Foundation to hold parley to tackle disability issues

Ruderman Family Foundation to lead discussion on stigmas of thousands of special-needs Jews in the first conference of its kind.

Jay and Shira Ruderman 248.88  (photo credit: Tamar Geva)
Jay and Shira Ruderman 248.88
(photo credit: Tamar Geva)
The Boston and Israel-based Ruderman Family Foundation will host a first-of-its-kind conference in New York next month aimed at tackling the complex issues faced by Jews with disabilities and special needs both in the Diaspora and in Israel, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Organized in cooperation with the Jewish Funders Network (JFN), Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and Boston’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), the one-day event on October 20th entitled ADVANCE, will be a “unique opportunity to learn about what needs to be done in the field and raise awareness to the stigmas and exclusion of thousands of Jews with disabilities,” Jay Ruderman, president of his family’s multimillion dollar charitable fund, told the Post last week.
The main aim of the conference, he said, is to “gather major funders from Israel and the US together in order to learn best practices and start to form a network to talk about what the Jewish disability field needs.
“Funding generally happens solo with people doing their own thing, choosing their favorite NGO and not knowing what is happening with other funders,” continued Ruderman, who lives in Israel but shuttles back and forth to the US.
“My main goal is to establish a network of interested people to meet periodically and learn how to help each other work together in this field,” added Ruderman, whose foundation has been instrumental in pushing for the inclusion of children with disabilities in the Jewish community in Boston and creating adult disability programs in partnership with the Israeli government.
“I think the future of philanthropy will be for large donors to check their egos in at the door and sit down and learn for the cause together.” As well as the network he hopes to create, Ruderman also said that another aim of the forthcoming gathering is to push for greater inclusion of people with disabilities within the organized Jewish communities and in Israel in general.
Referring specifically to Diaspora Jewry he said “One of the overriding issues among Diaspora communities is continuity and this is spoken about as vital to survival of Jewish people but this means that you have to also include those with special needs and disability.
“From the statistics I have seen, people with disabilities and special needs make up roughly 15 percent to 20% of Jewish population, and if they are turned away by the community from Jewish schools, community centers and synagogues, that means the organized Jewish community is turning away 20% of its Jews,” pointed out Ruderman.
“Communities cannot ignore the issue of special needs because it’s expensive or complex, they have to pay attention to it,” he added.
Ruderman estimated that more than 100 people who either contribute financially or work in the field of special needs and disabilities had already signed up for the conference.
In addition to participants and speakers, the event was developed by a committee that includes some of the world’s top Jewish philanthropists and representatives of various foundations.