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Op-Ed: Embrace special needs in continuity conversation

Since the late 1980s the Jewish conversation — and Jewish funding — has orbited around the goal of Jewish continuity. Whether the cause is Jewish peoplehood, intermarriage, education or even Israel, ensuring our Jewish continuity inevitably grounds the discussion.

But one issue critical to continuity has been missing from the conversation for far too long: supporting our disabled and special needs populations.

With 14 percent of children in North America having special needs and an even larger percentage of people (young and old) living with a disability, hundreds of thousands of Jews in North America and around the world must forego Jewish experiences in order to participate in secular programs — schools, camps, vocational services and more — that meet basic developmental needs.

Even in major Jewish markets, families with disabled children struggle to engage in Jewish life. This summer, international media reported on the Samuels family of New York, who were forced to choose between providing a Jewish education for their daughter Caily, who was born with Down syndrome, and a secular program that would accommodate her special circumstances.

For a people who value fairness, inclusivity and justice, it’s unacceptable that so many of our own are turned away in this manner. We need to tackle Jewish continuity head-on by ensuring that Jews with special needs have a place to live, learn and work within our communities.

via Op-Ed: Embrace special needs in continuity conversation
 | JTA – Jewish & Israel News.

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