Bruchim HaBaim (Welcome!) — National Tikvah and JCC Manhattan Delegation
National Ramah Tikvah Network Director Howard Blas (bio, below*) paid a visit with a special delegation including (from right to left, above): Cindy Dolgin, National Ramah Commission Development Director; Allison Kleinman, LCSW, Director of Jack and Shirley Center for Special Needs at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, and Michelle Wexler, LMSW, who wears three hats: Camp Settoga CIT Director, Center for Special Needs School Age and Transitions Coordinator, and Center for Family Life Tween Coordinator. The group toured our Machaneh (camp) led by Howard as well as Dr. Bonnie Schwartz, Ramah Palmer’s Tikvah Director. For Bonnie’s recent reflections on Tikvah, please see here:
Howard Blas has a wide range of professional and personal interests. He currently serves as director of the National Ramah Tikvah Network of the National Ramah Commission. In this capacity, Howard works with Ramah camps as they include and support campers with disabilities. Howard previously served as the director of the Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in New England for 15 years. Howard discovered his passion for working with people with disabilities when he served as a counselor and division head in the Tikvah Program starting in the early 1980s.
Howard has led five Tikvah Ramah Israel trips and served as group leader for three Shorashim Birthright Asperger trips to Israel. Howard’s most recent Birthright Aspgergers trip was December 2018-January 2019.
Howard was selected to be part of the first cohort of Jim Joseph Foundation Fellows, through the Lookstein Center at Bar Ilan University, a program to teach educators and Jewish community professionals to develop online communities of practice. He has developed a community of practice for Ramah Special Needs Program Directors and “Shabbos Is Calling,” a weekly video chat for campers and staff. Howard received the S’fatai Tiftakh Award in April 2012 from Boston Hebrew College’s Center for Jewish Special Education and was a recipient of the 2013 Covenant Foundation Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.
Howard serves as a teacher of Jewish Studies and bar/bat mitzvah to students with a range of disabilities and “special circumstances.” He holds masters degrees in both social work (Columbia University) and special education (Bank Street College of Education).