The Union for Reform Judaism has launched two new summer programs for children with special needs. Camp Chazak in Massachusetts, opening this summer, is for middle-school children with communication and social delays. It has recreational and therapeutic programming. Like the Reform movement’s existing programs for autistic teens -- the Mitzvah Corps program at Camp Kutz in Warwick, N.Y., and the Camp Nefesh program at Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, Calif. -- the new camp aims to provide a Jewish experience to youngsters often left out of mainstream opportunities.
Mark Worland -- six-foot-something, dressed in tight black and skinhead bald -- grabs Navid by the arm.
"Come with me!" he barks.
"No!" screams Navid, barely 5-feet tall.
Navid throws himself on his back, locks the bottom of his feet to Worland's knees, and shields his face and head from Worland's flailing fists.
"Great job," says Worland, a self-defense specialist, shaking Navid's hand and helping him up, as Navid's friends applaud.
This self-defense class is part of a repertoire of life skills that Navid and his peers are learning at Independent Living Skills, a summer program for developmentally disabled adults run by Etta Israel Center, a mid-Wilshire nonprofit for people with special needs.
What does it take to bring together The Juilliard School and Bais Chana, a high school for Orthodox girls?Answer: a summer conservatory for teenagers, where the art is Juilliard-level professional, and the Judaism is black-hat frum (Orthodox).