More jobs needed for the disabled


Transitions to Work has united leaders in the Jewish community as part of an innovative approach to helping young adults with disabilities create a career path for success.

Founded by Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), the Ruderman Family Foundation and Jewish Vocational Service (JVS), it is creating strong collaborations with employers and the Jewish community to raise awareness about inclusive hiring practices, and to get corporate partners to think about young adults with disabilities as qualified and committed candidates for appropriate employment opportunities.

Transitions to Work provides an extensive training and internship program that enables young adults with disabilities to develop the skills needed for employment, and places them into jobs that provide earnings and a sense of purpose. Participants complete a 12-week training and internship program; during that time, Transitions to Work staff works with employers to analyze the job qualifications and skills needed for specific jobs, and provides ongoing support for program participants and corporate partners.

Personal success stories exemplify the need for companies to embrace inclusive hiring and the value of a job to Transitions to Work participants.

Stephen Colwell, Executive Director of Operations at New- Bridge on the Charles, described how the program has enhanced his organization. He said his Transitions to Work employees are among his most loyal and dedicated staff, they have positively enhanced the culture within the organization, the customers have embraced them, and his “able” staff has grown as they’ve become mentors and participated on integrated teams. Transitions to Work employees, including Matt and Gabe, have become an integral part of his senior housing facility.

Matt works in the kitchen washing dishes and delivering meals. His favorite task is the meal delivery because he can interact with the residents. He loves having a job and said he will do anything for his boss.

Gabe, who works in the ice cream and coffee shop, started with significant supervision and now runs shifts on his own. He greets his customers with “do you want the regular?” His mentor said, when Gabe went on vacation, every customer who came in asked, “Where’s Gabe”?

Listening to these young men speak about their jobs is a powerful reminder of the importance of self-esteem and belonging. They are so very able.

Transitions to Work’s goal is to engage the corporate and business community to increase employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

The unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities is, on average, twice as high as that of the general population. Individuals with disabilities are an underused pool of talent; they are skilled, qualified applicants who are incredibly able, dedicated and successful colleagues, yet getting hired is a high hurdle.

In its first year, Transitions to Work enrolled 38 young adults with disabilities in five training and internship programs. It is growing its effort to educate companies on inclusive hiring practices and to enlist new employers as training and hiring partners.

Corporate commitment is the cornerstone to creating and implementing inclusive hiring. Benefits to a company with inclusive hiring practices include:

• Higher Productivity. Employees with disabilities typically exhibit higher loyalty, lower turnover, and contribute to the collegiality of the workplace.

• Increased Market Share. Individuals with disabilities and their families reflect an expanding customer base and are loyal patrons of companies that support inclusive hiring.

• Public Relations. Inclusive hiring positively impacts a company’s image.

• Diversity and Morale. All employees report a higher degree of workplace satisfaction when working in integrated teams.

• Expanded Talent Pool. Individuals with disabilities are an underused pool of talented, skilled, and qualified applicants.


The traditions and values of the Jewish community have long been rooted in compassion, caring and justice. Because February is Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month, please join the effort to create transformative change in hiring practices and employment possibilities for members of our community.

Beth Tauro is CJP’s Business Community Liaison. She wrote this piece with Elizabeth Sternberg,CJP’s Director of Disabilities Services.