Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities, and Camp Stone, an Orthodox Jewish summer camp in Sugar Grove, Pa., announced a partnership that will allow Yachad members to work at the camp as staff through a vocational training program offered by Yachad.
Irving I. Stone, founder and chairman of American Greetings, founded the camp.
Nechama Braun, administrator of Yachad summer programs, said that though they have a number of similar programs in other camps, most of those programs are located in northeast New York and Pennsylvania. According to Braun, partnering with Camp Stone gives Yachad access to a community that it may not have had the chance to collaborate with in the past.
“The camp directors, Yakov and Estee Fleischmann, were very committed from the start to open up a Yachad program at Camp Stone,” Braun said. “(The partnership) will give us an opportunity to allow more young adults with special needs to be involved in a summer camp experience as a staff member, which is very beneficial for each participant.”
“This is because they gain tremendous social skills, independence skills, self-confidence and also boosts their vocational skills, which in turn allows them broader opportunities throughout the year. So, (the partnership) really just extends the ability for Yachad to provide these types of services.”
Estee Fleischmann, co-owner of Camp Stone, which is about 145 miles from Cleveland, said that the partnership was a logical step for the camp to further insure that everyone is welcome at the camp.
“This (partnership) would send messages to campers and the whole community that we are building Camp Stone to be a place where everyone is welcome,” Fleischmann said. “Though we have already had special needs staff members as part of our community, this partnership enables us to have more special needs staff members and allow others that are interested to see that we are making their time more inclusion-focused.”
Fleischmann said the partnership won’t necessarily impact the future of the camp, but more notably will impact the whole feel of the camp’s inclusion culture and culture in general.
“The direction that we are hoping to grow in and see the culture of our camp change is to a truly seamless, inclusion focused environment,” she said. “We want the inclusion to be something that everyone is involved in and nobody thinks twice about. And no matter who your staff member is, the camper would love spending time with and look up to – and that this is an environment that has all kinds of people in that position.”
This article was written by Becky Raspe for the Cleveland Jewish News.
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