At the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia we believe everyone should have the opportunity to reach their potential and live life to the fullest: to cultivate skills that allow them to engage with the world, make friendships, develop independence and join in Jewish communal life. That’s why we support so many local programs serving people with disabilities and special needs.
Our support begins at an early age. The Jewish Federation-funded initiative Whole Community Inclusion adapts Jewish programming to be welcoming for families with special needs children — like Jewish Federation-supported jkidphilly, which offers sensory-friendly events for the whole family. Through a range of social activities, Jewish Federation-supported Philly Friendship Circle facilitates genuine friendships, connecting teens and young adults with kids with special needs. And because the magic of summer camp should be available to everyone, we provide financial grants and scholarships to Jewish camp, including for nearly a dozen camps for special needs campers.
With the approach of adulthood, the focus shifts to acquiring different life skills. Jewish Federation-supported Judith Creed Horizons for Achieving Independence (JCHAI) coaches people with disabilities in independent-living skills like cooking, laundry, taking public transportation and budgeting, and links them with job coaching and placement programs. When participants are ready, they can then move into JCHAI apartments, where members get individualized levels of supervision and take turns hosting group meals.
To encourage learning and personal growth — and to combat isolation — we also support a socialization program for adults of all ages through JFCS’ People Living with Disabilities. A diverse network of adults currently ranging from their 20s to their 70s, with impairments including cognitive impairment, autism and mental illness, meet weekly for art, writing and cooking programs that help them express their creativity, develop friendships and learn communication skills at the same time.
And we do even more. From supporting people living with mental illness at JEVS Human Services’ Tikvah House to advocating for the rights of people with disabilities in Washington D.C., we never stop working to help everyone achieve their best. Because we were all made B’tzelem Elokim — in the image of the Divine.