February is Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month. As part of our Federation’s commitment to inclusion, every week this month we will feature a blog written by either a member of our community with a disability or their parent, or by a professional working with one of our partner organizations that serves people with special needs.
Bloggers were asked to answer one of the following questions: What is your superpower that helps you gain strength and confidence in the Jewish community? Who has made you feel like a superhero and included in the Jewish community, and how?
I have powers like Superman, but we got them in different ways. He was born with them; I was not. I gained them through my family and friends, Temple VBS, programs like ETTA Israel, and, of course, through eight wonderful years at Camp Ramah.
Superman can fly, but so can I, or at least I always felt that way at Ramah. So many friends, so much fun. Every summer I literally flew back there. Superman is the strongest man on Earth, a man of steel. I’m strong too. I learned that strength comes with being confident in yourself, and that’s what Ramah gave me: confidence, strong friendships, and a strong Jewish identity.
Who has made me feel like a superhero? Mostly, of course, my parents and siblings, who have raised me with love and have taught me that I am never alone and that I will always have a community behind me — the Jewish community. I am Jewish and I have learned that is a good thing, because I have seen it and felt it all my life. I am proud of being a Jewish superhero.
Jesse Blasberg was born with a rare craniofacial abnormality called Apert Syndrome for which he has had over 20 major surgeries — and has smiled through them all. He lives in Laguna Beach in his own apartment in a complex for young adults with disabilities. When he’s not working at Walmart, Jesse enjoys playing basketball and soccer, traveling and socializing.
ETTA provides a full spectrum of programs and services for adults with special needs including residential housing, case management, employment training and placement, educational services and social services.
Camp Ramah in California’s Ezra is a vocational training program for young adults with disabilities. Participants experience the excitement of camp, while receiving job training, on-site and off-site job experiences, life skills classes, recreational activities and living Judaism.
For more information about Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month, please contact Miriam Maya, Director, Caring for Jews in Need, at (323) 761-8081 or MMaya@JewishLA.org.