Campers with Special Needs

The Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in New England is one of the first summer programs for Jewish children with special needs. More than 40 years old, the Tikvah Program continues to grow and evolve as it strives to serve campers with a wide range of special needs, including (but not limited to) cognitive impairments, autism, cerebral palsy and seizure disorders. The Tikvah Program, an integral part of the 800-person Camp Ramah in New England community, consists of four tracks: Amitzim (our camp program), Tochnit Avodah (our vocational training program), Post Voc-Ed, and Inclusion.

The Amitzim program offers 13-18 year olds the full range of Ramah camper activities. Tochnit Avodah (Voc-Ed) offers vocational training, socialization and group living experience to graduates of Amitzim.
Post Voc-Ed offers extensive vocational training to a small cohort of Tochnit Avodah graduates. Finally, our innovative inclusion program offers younger campers support in typical bunks.

Multi-Sensory Learning: For our Amitizm campers, the highly structured day offers opportunities to learn and grow by doing.  Campers participate in swimming, arts and crafts, Israeli dancing and singing, sports, Jewish learning and such chugim (electives) as boating, photography, nature and the ropes course/climbing tower.  Bunk life and various trips provide our campers with opportunities to learn skills associated with daily living and to gain independence.

Socialization and Inclusion: Tikvah campers live on the B-side of camp in close proximity to our older campers.  There are numerous formal and informal opportunities to interact with all campers at Ramah, including “buddy” programs, joint bunk and divisional activities, and informal meetings.  Tikvah campers participate in all camp-wide activities, perform a play and lead Shabbat services.  Inclusion campers participate fully in their bunks and edot.  In the off-season, campers and staff stay in touch in a variety of ways, including our weekly “Shabbos Is Calling” videoconference.

Jewish Living: Like all Ramah campers, Tikvah Program participants are fully immersed in Jewish life and Hebrew language.  From spirited, musical morning prayers to daily interaction with Israelis, Hebrew singing and dancing in the dining room, and performing a Hebrew-rich play for the entire camp, Tikvah campers enjoy the beauty of their religion and culture.  Some have even celebrated b’nai mitzvah at camp!  Many have participated in the Tikvah Israel Program.

Attention to Detail — Putting Health and Safety First: Specially-trained counselors and senior staff monitor each campers’ special needs, from seizures to allergies to mobility issues.  Counselors assist as needed with self-care, and alert medical staff are always available as issues arise.  Doctors, nurses and the Tikvah Director carefully manage health, medical and medication issues.

Tikvah Parents: The Tikvah Director is in close contact with these important partners.  Through weekly newsletters and frequent e-mails and calls, the director works collaboratively with parents and such team members as therapists and physicians.  Campers write home and eagerly await letters and e-mails from their parents.  A Parent Retreat with the Tikvah Director and other experts, held off-site each summer during Visitors Day Weekend, affords parents an opportunity to learn and get to know each other.

To Apply to the Tikvah Program: If you are interested in exploring the possibility of the Tikvah Program for your child, please click here and complete our brief on-line application.  Once we receive your on-line form, we will be in touch with you to set up a preliminary interview and to answer any questions you might have about our program!  If you have any questions about the application process, please contact our main office at 781-702-5290.  For more information about our Tikvah Program, please contact:

Check out our Tikvah Family Shabbaton for a “Taste of Tikvah” experience for the whole family!

Howard Blas
Director Tikvah Program
(413) 374-7210

In 2013, Tikvah Director Howard Blas was awarded the prestigious Covenant Award, which honors three extraordinary Jewish educators each year.  Click here watch the short video created by the Covenant Foundation, which highlights Howard’s work with the Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in New England!