Tikvah: Modeling Resilience and Inspiring Community

February is Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM). It is an opportunity for us to raise awareness, engage in advocacy, learn from others, and increase inclusion and acceptance of individual differences within our Jewish communities and worldwide. It is also an opportunity for us to highlight the Tikvah Program. Our Tikvah participants are full participants in everything Ramah; they embody the ruach (spirit) that elevates our summers.

The pandemic has presented all of us with new challenges, changes in daily routines, social distancing, and separation from family and friends. Many of our Ramah campers, including many Tikvah participants, have been attending school virtually. Many of the young adults in our Voc Ed programs are joining their day programs virtually or do not have access to any formal programming. However, the resilience of our Tikvah participants is remarkable – their connections to each other, our staff, and Ramah are stronger than ever.

Last March, as the world was learning how to “Zoom,” our Tikvah community continued to meet up for their regular weekly Shabbos Is Calling Zoom calls – an opportunity to check in with friends, share exciting news and events, and talk about Shabbat and upcoming holidays. In addition to those weekly meet-ups, members of our Tikvah staff volunteered to provide regular reunions and get-togethers with fun activities. These complemented the Ramah M’Rachok (Remote Ramah) and Ramah Ba’Bayit (Ramah in the House) programs provided for the larger Ramah New England and National Ramah communities. All of this programming led in to six weeks of additional virtual summer programming filled with an abundance of creative games and activities led by our amazing Tikvah summer team. We did virtual trips to far-away lands, swim lessons, yoga, karaoke, game shows, a talent show, and so much more! We were even joined by some Nivonim 2020 volunteers, who came to share in the fun, and then created a wonderful, interactive Shabbat Brownie Adventure for our group. And most importantly, Tikvah showed up! Our Amitzim, Voc Ed Ma’avar, and Voc Ed participants enthusiastically joined all activities offered, demonstrated a strong presence, provided suggestions for upcoming programs, and genuinely expressed their appreciation for these opportunities.

While 2020 served as an opportunity for our Tikvah participants to strengthen their bonds within the Ramah New England community, it doesn’t end there. For the first time, they had opportunities to meet and engage in activities with Tikvah participants from Ramah camps across the United States and Canada! Some of these have been one-time events, such as joining the California or Poconos Ramah camps for Tikvah tefillot (services). Others have been more ongoing, such as sharing our voices during Ramah Wisconsin zemirot (songs) twice a month and meeting Voc Eders and alumni through TikvahNet, a national vocational training and socialization program, which has also been meeting twice a month. It has been amazing to see members of our own Tikvah community learning together, sharing laughs and conversation, and developing friendships with fellow Ramahniks who may be geographically far but virtually in the same room.

Since the summer, our local and national virtual programming has continued. Our Tikvah participants and staff have learned what it means for our summer family to become our year-round family and that the magic of Ramah extends far beyond a physical location. In addition, over the course of this year, through their continued ruach, energy, and presence, our Tikvah participants once again demonstrated that they are an integral part of our Ramah New England community, as well as the larger Ramah Movement. We couldn’t be prouder!

May we continue to appreciate and learn from each other’s differences and may our community perpetually grow in its understanding, inclusion, and acceptance!

For more information about Tikvah’s virtual programming, please enjoy the following links:

TikvahNet Video

Tikvah Triumphs in Trying Times, post by Dr. Bonnie Schwartz, Ramah New England

TikvahNet: Ramah’s Virtual Vocational Training and Socialization Program, article by Maya Albin, National Ramah

Wishing all of you a meaningful and inspired month!

For more information about our Tikvah programs, please visit our website or contact Dr. Bonnie Schwartz.

Categories: Amitzim, Tikvah, Voc-Ed