Editor's Note: It's summer camp season! We will be sharing voices from a wide range of Jewish camps throughout the summer.
As more Jewish camps across the country expand their programs to welcome campers of all abilities, a new online resource has been created in a partnership between the Foundation For Jewish Camp and the Ramah Camping Movement. The “Inclusion Training Guide for Jewish Summer Camps” is a comprehensive guide that camps are able to download and use for staff training.
It contains overviews of different types of disabilities, philosophies of inclusion and practical strategies for working with campers of all abilities. It also includes sample programs of how to teach inclusion to a whole camp — making every camper aware that disabilities can be both visible and invisible and helping to make camp culture more sensitive to differences among campers.
Howard Blas, Director of the Tikvah program at Ramah New England and also Director of Ramah’s Tikvah Network, was instrumental in writing and putting together the guide based on his years of experience at Tikvah and in training camps around the country. "The guide doesn’t sugar coat the hard work that goes into making inclusion work," he says. "It focuses on practical strategies and advice that can be applied not only to camps, but also to youth groups, Hebrew school and other settings that are working to become more inclusive.”
Lisa Tobin of the Foundation for Jewish Camp stresses that this training guide is something that she has known has been missing. “There are camps across the country that have a desire for trainings on inclusion but haven’t had a place to turn to. We knew that Ramah has been doing this work for years so they were a natural place to turn to share what they are doing with other camps.”
Tobin notes that for many camps that have not yet had inclusion programs in place, even knowing where to start is a challenge. “Camp directors wonder how to effectively talk to their board members, parents and staff about the importance of inclusion…in the guide we have tools that they can use to help move their desire for inclusion forward.”
The online guide is accessible to anyone and everyone—and includes resources such as text studies and a bibliography that can be used in a variety of settings. For more information on working on inclusion of people with disabilities at your camp, contact Lisa Tobin at email@example.com.