(JTA) — Organizations in the United States, South Africa, Israel and Argentina were awarded the Ruderman Prize in Disability.
The second annual prize, which recognizes organizations operating innovative programs and services dedicated to the full inclusion of people with disabilities in their local Jewish community, was announced Monday by the Ruderman Family Foundation.
The winners from among the 244 applicants are B’nai Amoona Synagogue in St. Louis, Mo.; United Herzlia Schools in Cape Town, South Africa; AMIT in Israel; Fundación Judaica in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the Sunflower Bakery in Gaithersburg, Md.
Each of the winners will receive $50,000 to continue its work.
“All of this year’s winners around the globe are organizations not focused on the issue of disability but have developed innovative programs to include people with disabilities in the overall mission of their organization,” said Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, in a statement.
B’nai Amoona has worked to be what Senior Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose describes as “radically inclusive.”
“That vision has guided our congregation’s efforts for the last 8 years, and each year we have searched for and found new and more meaningful ways to enfranchise those who, heretofore, had been marginalized,” Rose said in a statement.
The synagogue reconstructed its bima and ark to be accessible to all, including ramps and an adjustable Torah reading table; it offers assistive listening devices and large print siddurim for the visually and audibly challenged; and provides shadows, special needs tutors, and a resource room for children in its religious school. The synagogue is guided by an inclusion committee comprised of lay members, which offers guidance on both physical plant and policies issues.
With 10 campuses throughout Cape Town, United Herzlia Schools feature an inclusive program adopted in 1997 that embraces children with learning and physical disabilities.
“The transformation of Herzlia into a school that offers a fully fledged inclusion program has been the most important, rewarding aspect of my 33 years in education,” said Geoff Cohen, director of education for the schools.
Sunflower Bakery provides skilled, on-the-job training, internships and employment services to individuals with developmental or other cognitive disabilities.
The bakery is “preparing young adults with a range of developmental and other cognitive disabilities with marketable skills and workplace experience desired by employers in the pastry and food industries,” said Sara Portman Milner and Laurie Wexler, the bakery’s co-founders and co-directors. “Our graduates are securing and sustaining jobs of their choosing, increasing self-sufficiency and enhancing their self-esteem.”
More than 1,000 children with disabilities are mainstreamed in AMIT schools across Israel, with full inclusion in classes, social and extracurricular activities.
Another inclusive school, Escuela Comunitaria Arlene Fern de la Fundación Judaica, has been a pioneer in projecting an inclusive model in which children with disabilities are integrated into mainstream classrooms at kindergarten and elementary-school levels.