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March 22, 1991 - Image 14

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-03-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

DETROIT

Town Meeting On Disabilities
Airs Grievances And Plans

RONELLE GRIER

Special to The Jewish News

I

t's about time."
These words, spoken by
Dr. Conrad Giles, were
echoed by most of the 80
people who came to hear
the report of the Jewish
Welfare Federation-sponsored
Task Force on Services for
People with Disabilities last
week.

The Thwn Hall meeting,
called "Apart from, or a Part
of, the Jewish Community?"
was sponsored by Federation
and co-sponsored by JARC
(Jewish Association for

Residential Care) and
Kadima, an organization that
provides services for people
with mental illness.
"I'm here because it's about
40 years overdue that the
Jewish agencies start
remembering there are
Jewish handicapped people,"
said Bob Stern of West Bloom-
field, who came to the March
14 meeting at the Agency for
Jewish Education with his
wife Fran.
For the last 26 years, the
Sterns have felt relatively
alone in their struggles to
cope with the needs of their
daughter Ellen, who has
severe multiple disabilities.

Forty At Inaugural
Keshet Parent Meeting

More than 40 parents and
professionals turned out for
the organizational meeting of
Keshet, a group for Jewish
parents of children with
special needs.
The March 6 meeting
featured Sara Bland, ex-
ecutive director of the
Chicago-based national
Keshet organization. Ms.
Bland showed a video about
Keshet, and described the
program's evolution in the
Chicago area.
The Detroiters plan a news-
letter, informational presen-
tations, special holiday pro-
grams and family activities.
Some parents seek a day
school and camping program
similar to those sponsored by
the Chicago Keshet organiza-
tion, although it was agreed
that these kinds of programs
would require considerably
more funding than is current-
ly available.
According to Ms. Bland, the
annual budget for the
Chicago program is approx-
imately $50,000 with 60 per-
cent going to the Keshet Day
School, which is state-
accredited.
The Detroit Chapter is ap-
plying • for funding from
several sources. In the mean-
time, the chapter will rely on
membership dues and private
donations.
"I've felt so alone for so
many years," said one woman
in the audience, verging on
tears as she looked around
the room. "Where have all
you people been?"
Sharon Alterman, one of
the founders of JARC (Jewish

14

FRIDAY, MARCH 22, 1991

Sara Bland

Association for Residential
Care), commended the group
for coming together and urg-
ed them to continue their
efforts.
In addition to parents, pro-
fessionals from the Jewish
Welfare Federation, Jewish
Community Center, Jewish
Family Service, JARC, the
Agency for Jewish Education,
Jewish Information Service
and Temple Beth El were also
present.
The next Keshet meeting
will take place 7:30 p.m. April
10 at the Agency for Jewish
Education. Rabbi Eli
Finkelman will be the guest
speaker. Election of officers
will be held.
For information about
Keshet, call Ronelle Grier,
661-6905.
— RRG

But instead of bitterness,
Mr. Stern managed a smile.
"Really, I'm here because I
care!"
Dr. Conrad Giles, past presi-
dent of Jewish Welfare Feder-
ation and founder of the Task
Force, opened the meeting.
"This is a commencement ex-
ercise for persons with
disabilities," he said, explain-
ing that the real work of the
community to implement the
Task Force findings was still
ahead.
Norman Wachler and Nora
Barron, who co-chaired the
Task Force, described it as a
six-month project that lasted
31/2 years because of the unex-
pected scope of the undertak-
ing. The group was divided in-
to three subcommittees that
studied mental illness, devel-
opmental disabilities and
physical impairments.
"We heard the frustration,
anxiety, distress — the
lifetime of not feeling like
they belonged to the Jewish
community," said Mrs.
Barron.
She highlighted several pro-
grams that have already
begun as a result of the Task
Force findings. These include
Keshet, a support - organiza-
tion for parents of persons
with special needs; a new sup-
ported employment program
through Kadima and Jewish
Vocational Service; a special
needs committee at the
Jewish Community Center;
and a TDD (Telecommunica-
tions Device for the Deaf) and
a new "disabilities database"
at the Jewish Information
Service (JIS).
The Town Meeting also
featured an interpreter who
provided a simultaneous sign
language translation of every
speech. According to Mr.
Wachler, this service will be
provided from now on at every
major function sponsored by
Jewish Welfare Federation
and its agencies.
Two family members of peo-
ple with disabilities, Howard
Serlin and Nancy Kaplan,
spoke about their ex-
periences. Mr. Serlin has a
brother with mental illness,
who is making progress
through the help of the
Kadima program.
"We wanted something that
would help him and also let
him maintain his ties with
the Jewish community," he
said.
He described how, before he
learned about Kadima, the
whole family had been af-
fected by his brother's pro-

,=(

blems. "Now it's like a cloud
has • been lifted off my
shoulders," he said, admitting
that he "still jumps" every
time the family gets a phone
call from Kadima.
Nancy Kaplan described
the exhausting daily routine
of caring for her 13-year-old
son, Dan, who has multiple
disabilities and uses a
wheelchair.
"I take nothing for granted
since the day he was born,"
she said. "Things that should
be no big deal are a major pro-
duction in our house."
She urged professionals to
be more aware of what
parents of children with
serious disabilities go
through on a day-to-day basis
when planning programs and
services.
"These parents don't lack
interest — more often they
lack energy," she said.
Several parents voiced their
frustration in trying to obtain
needed services for their
children without jeopardizing
their jobs or their financial
resources.
Alicia Nelson of Southfield,
wife of Rabbi David Nelson,
talked about the lack of sup-
port for the "not severely any-
thing" people who tend to fall
between the cracks of avail-
able community services.
Their daughter Debra, who is
21, has some developmental
disabilities resulting from a
stroke she suffered when she
was 10.
The only option available to
Debra is a community group
home, complete with
Christmas celebrations and
weekly trips to church. To the
Nelsons, this is an unaccep-
table alternative.
Bonnie Kowal of Farm-

ington Hills understood Mrs.
Nelson's concerns. "I am one
of those people," she said,
describing her own cerebral
palsy, learning disabilities
and emotional impairment.
"I've heard about waiting
lists all my life."
Despite her disabilities, Ms.
Kowal is finishing a college
degree and also volunteers at
Jewish Information Service.
She feels the Jewish com-
munity is finally starting to
open its doors to people with
handicaps. "This meeting is a
start, it's just a beginning."
Linda Klein, Task Force
member and president of
Jewish Vocational Service,
voiced the sentiments of
many of the professionals
when she said, "I can only
apologize heartily for the
lists. It breaks my heart when
we have to say no."
Although the official work
of the Task Force is now com-
plete, a monitoring commit-
tee will assess and encourage
implementation.
Many persons stayed long
after the meeting was formal-
ly adjourned, talking in
groups, sharing resources,
setting up future meetings.
There was a general consen-
sus that it was essential to
continue the effort.
"One of the most important
things we can do is develop
sensitivity in the communi-
ty," said Mr. Wachler.
"Without it, we don't have a
chance, but with it, we can't
miss:"
"A lot was accomplished,"
said Lynn Medow, a Task
Force member and represen-
tative of JARC. "You can
already see the effect on a
grass-roots level within the
community."



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