What’s Happening at Ramah
Tikvah Director Howard Blas Receives S'fatai Tiftakh Award at Hebrew College
April 30, 2012—In recognition of his important contributions to creating inclusive Jewish lives for those with special needs, Hebrew College’s Center for Jewish Special Education has presented the S’fatai Tiftakh award to Howard Blas at their fourth annual national GISHA (access) conference, “Creating Jewish Inclusive Classrooms for the 21st Century” (www.hebrewcollege.edu) on April 30.
Read this excerpt from Camp Ramah in New England's Blog
Anyone who has spent time at Camp Ramah in New England is immediately aware that this camp is magical for the campers who live among their peers, creating a Jewish space, time, and community. And part of its magic is that the community is inclusive through the Tikvah program. Typically developing campers live with and alongside individuals with special needs. Those with special needs may be part of regular bunks, part of the Amitzim edah, the vocational program, or the staff as part of a post-vocational program. As the first Ramah camp to offer an edah for teens with special needs, this program has become a model for an inclusive Jewish community.
Howard Blas’ Support of Inclusion
Since Howard Blas became the director of the program he has expanded the program by making it even more inclusive, by extending the program into bunk life. Some campers with special needs are included in the “regular” edot in bunks with an extra counselor. The counselors interact with all the campers in their bunk; no shadow counselor provides one-to-one support for the camper with special needs.
Having spent six years working with the founders of Tikvah, Herb and Barbara Greenberg, Howard learned a great deal from them and continues to meet with them regularly, providing updates about Tikvah. He has continued their initial Israel trip for Tikvah and has taken as many as five trips since becoming Tikvah Director. Pictures and blogs from these trips show smiling Ramahniks floating in the Dead Sea, praying at the Kotel, and spending time with the Mishlachat staff and counselors who are studying in Israel.
Selected as a Jim Joseph Fellow, Howard has extended the life of the Tikvah Ramahniks in a virtual community where they continue their friendships throughout the winter months, maintaining contact and wishing each other Shabbat Shalom.
In his relaxed and competent way, Howard serves as a mentor to many campers and staff who interact with their Tikvah friends and find new career paths that build on these powerful Ramah experiences.