For the last year, I have been working diligently to start a dance therapy program for the campers with special needs at Camp Ramah New England (CRNE) as my way to give back to a community that has become my extended family. With the support of State Representative Kay Khan, Howard Blas (director of CRNE’s Tikvah Program),Rabbi Ed Gelb (CRNE Director), Josh Edleglass (CRNE Assistant Director), and Samantha Chan Ravin (CRNE dance instructor), the dance therapy program almost became a reality. I say almost because the dance therapist that agreed to run the program canceled at the last minute. I did not let this setback derail my goal instead, with the encouragement from my Diller Teen Fellowship program directors, Liana Mitman and Fiona Epstein, I set the bar higher to include dance therapy for children with special needs locally as well. My new program is called CHEETA (Children Helping Empower Each other Through Art) and our goal is to help children with special needs in the Greater Boston area improve their self-esteem with dance, music, and art therapy. Further, I want to empower them with opportunities to perform and raise money for communities that lack funding for the arts.
On December 20th, 2012, I met with Barry Shrage and Elizabeth Sternberg at the Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) office. Barry Shrage is the President of CJP and Elizabeth Sternberg is the director of disability services for CJP; CJP is an organization which brings together Greater Boston’s Jewish community to care for people in need, advocate for Israel and ensure a vibrant, Jewish future. I reached out to Mr. Shrage and Ms. Sternberg to discuss people with special needs and how to further include them in our Jewish community. I especially wanted to talk with them about starting a dance therapy program locally and at Camp Ramah in New England (CRNE).
As part of my journey, I am embarking on a trip to Israel to learn more about art therapy programs that run successfully there. Since my high school, Gann Academy, provides its students the opportunity once a year for one week to “learn outside the classroom” known as Exploration week, I decided to set up my own Exploration week, with the school’s permission of course. I leave to Israel this week where I will be visiting three programs that offer art therapies for children with special needs (I am also spending a day volunteering for CJP in a kindergarten classroom). My hope is that once my dance therapy programs are up and running that the children we help will be as fortunate as those in Israel and one day find a connection to each other.
With the support of Gann Academy and the help of mentors like Mr. Shrage and Ms. Sternberg along with the many other influential people I have met and will meet on this journey, I am confident my dance therapy program is one step closer to reality. I am setting up this blog so that you can follow me on my upcoming journey in Israel and watch my progress when I return. I can’t wait to share my experiences with all of you!
Dance, move, and empower,