Dear Parents and Friends of Camp Young Judaea Texas:
With a wonderful summer behind us and with registrations filling Camp, I am thrilled to share some exciting news with you about CYJ-Texas. Over the past year, we have been working with an organization called Rosh Pina that provided a consultant to evaluate our current program and to help us become a camp community that is able to serve more children, specifically children with special needs. Too many of these children are traditionally excluded from Jewish summer camp. As our mission has always been to provide immersive Jewish camp experiences for children within our neighboring Jewish communities and beyond, we realized it was now time for us to take the necessary steps to develop a program suited for children with special needs.
This summer we are excited to announce that we have hired an Inclusion Specialist (thanks to the Foundation for Jewish Camp Ruderman Inclusion Initiative) and implementing two initiatives. The first is that we will be able to better support campers with special needs which may include, but are not limited to, campers with physical challenges, ADHD, intellectual and developmental disabilities and campers on the Autism Spectrum. As this is our first year, we will only be able to accept a limited number of campers in this program. Campers who apply to our program will participate in a low-key pre-camp screening to establish appropriate placement and to set expectations that are realistic for each individual camper prior to a formal acceptance. This will help us to ensure a successful summer for each of the children participating in the program.
Throughout the summer, we will continue to serve all of our campers with the same camper/staff ratios and dynamic programs that we always have. The CYJ community will benefit now from having a more diverse population that is reflective of the Jewish community outside of our camp gates. Campers with and without disabilities will now be able to play and to experience all that Jewish camp has to offer alongside their peers. This summer we will also start a new educational program which teaches each aidah (age group) how to be more accepting of others and to embrace differences and fits well with our goal for all campers to earn the reputation of being a mensch.
The second initiative is CYJ’s first ever family camp for children with special needs and their family. This family event is happening on December 18-20, 2015. This weekend will provide dynamic, specially designed program for the enjoyment of families who have children with a disability – offering a change of pace where they can have fun together in a safe and accepting environment. Inclusion teaches tolerance, patience, cooperation and helps us all to face challenges and to find our strengths. It pushes us all towards personal growth and towards acceptance of each member of a community. In a nutshell, I am hopeful that all CYJers will learn to appreciate the differences in each of us as we live, play, laugh and dream together.
We are moving slowly and will learn along the way. In our first year, we hope to grow and improve our program for the future with the help and support of our Camp community. As always, I am eager to speak with you personally about any aspect of camp and your family’s needs and hopes.