Nearly 20% of the population is diagnosed with some type of cognitive or developmental disability, which include autism spectrum disorders, hearing or visual impairments, physical disabilities, and anxiety and ADHD. This translates into approximately 9,000 Jewish children under the age of 18 in the JCF service area, many of whom are not able to participate in Jewish early childhood education, religious school, day school, camp, family and teen programming because these environments have lacked the necessary supports to plan for and serve children with special needs.
Senior Program Officer Laura Mason discusses how to shift the conversation on special needs to reflect the totality of all those who touch and shape an individual's life. READ MORE
Our goal is to build the capacity of the entire community to be inclusive and truly welcoming for children with special needs and their families. To achieve it, we are supporting professional training and development for Jewish educators, expert consultation in early childhood education, high quality camping experiences, and effective social enrichment activities for children, teens, families, and friends.
INCLUDE: A Partnership for Impact
In partnership with the Bureau of Jewish Education, we have convened The North Peninsula Special Needs Consortium (known as INCLUDE), comprised of congregations and schools in the region with the goal of transforming synagogues and organizations into environments in which every person has the opportunity to be included in the life of the Jewish community, participating meaningfully in educational, social, cultural and spiritual programs.
The North Peninsula pilot has served more than 250 Jewish special needs children at seven organizations, but the true impact of this work extends much further, reaching thousands of Jews who are parents, siblings, friends, and educators of a special needs child. JCF is actively raising funds to support similar projects in the South Peninsula, San Francisco, Marin and Sonoma, which will be implemented over the next one to three years.
FAMILY CAMP WEEKEND & CAMP NESHAMA
JCF continues to support the Special Needs Family Camp Weekend, operated by the BJE at URJ Camp Newman. The next session will be in May 2012.
Camp Neshama was developed to address the unique needs of children on the autism spectrum, and was held at URJ Camp Newman in 2010 and 2011, with support from the BJE and JCF. Summer 2012 details will be available on www.bjesf.org soon.
EARLY CHILDHOOD CONSULTATION & INTERVENTION
Identifying special needs and responding quickly with adaptive solutions is critical to a child’s development. JCF funding provides expert consultation for educators and parents to ensure their child’s successful growth and development. Early childhood educators report that additional services are needed, and JCF hopes to partner with more schools in the near future.
For more information please contact Laura Mason, Senior Program Officer, at LauraM@sfjcf.org, or David Neufeld, Director Special Needs Programs at the Bureau of Jewish Education at DNeufeld@bjesf.org.
As JCF’s lead partner in the effort to ensure all Jewish learners are welcomed and served by the community, JCF is proud of the BJE’s expertise to build capacity of organizations and synagogues, provide information and referral services, and provide high quality camping experiences for children and families.
Friendship Circle builds community for Jewish special needs children, families and teen volunteers who are inspired to make a difference in the community. The Friendship Circle model provides social, Judaic, and recreational activities for Jewish children with a range of special needs, including those with "invisible" disabilities such as high functioning Asperger's syndrome, social anxieties, and/or learning disabilities.
JFCS’ multidisciplinary team of highly skilled parent educators, licensed therapists, clinical social workers, and volunteers with appropriate training provide essential consultation services at several Jewish early childhood education sites.
Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties