Special Needs

Keeping Inclusion at the Center

The Bender JCC was founded on the belief that communities benefit when all people of all ability levels learn, grow, and celebrate together. Inclusion of those with disabilities has always been at the forefront of our mission, and has made us an area leader in comprehensive special needs inclusion, from our programming to our facilities.

Youth and teens with special needs are embraced in a warm, caring, and supportive environment at the Bender JCC through inclusive, innovative programming that enlightens, educates, and boosts self-esteem.

Explore the many ways we Keep Inclusion at the Center for youth and teens with special needs.

Questions about youth and teen inclusion at the Bender JCC? Contact us!

All Are Welcome

The Bender JCC embraces and welcomes the diversity of our community and encourages everyone to seek meaning and fulfillment by participating in our rich programming inspired by our Jewish heritage.

We open our doors to everyone, including people of all backgrounds, religions, abilities and sexual orientations, and interfaith couples and families.

Inclusion permeates our Center. Inclusion is belonging.

Camp JCC

As part of the Bender JCC’s wide-ranging efforts to include those with special needs, Camp JCC’s award-winning inclusion program incorporates children and teens with disabilities alongside their siblings and friends. Learn more about inclusion at Camp JCC.

Camp JCC also offers Kochavim, an award-winning summer transitional program for teens and young adults with disabilities that promotes socialization, recreation, and independent living in a welcoming, fun environment. Learn more about Kochavim.

Youth – The Bender JCC offers inclusive programs for all youth activities including Kids After School, enrichment classes and KidKoverage days.  In order to accommodate your child’s needs please let us know 72 hours in advance.


Teens and young adults with a range of special needs have fun, learn, and make new friends with a variety of classes at the Bender JCC that enlighten, educate, and boost self-esteem. Offerings include swimming, cooking, and summer camp programs.

For more information on any of these programs please contact the Director of Inclusion & Special Services, Leah Schwartz at: lschwartz@benderjccgw.org

Social Groups

Created for individuals aged 18 and up with learning, intellectual, and other developmental disabilities, the Hevra social group meets two Sundays a month (with a Saturday night option) for fun, engaging outings. With the help of a skilled group leader, participants plan trips and itineraries while they work on social skills, boost self-confidence, and much more. Past trips include lunch downtown, a basketball game at Verizon Center, and lively musicals. For questions about registration, please contact Leah Schwartz at 301-348-3735 or lschwartz@benderjccgw.org. For questions about the program, please contact Marcy Bennett at 240-283-6031 or mbennett@jfgh.org.

Make new friends and enrich Jewish identity with a social group created for individuals aged 18 and up that may have learning, intellectual, and other developmental disabilities but are able to function independently. Meeting twice a month (Sundays with a Saturday night option) with a skilled staff leader, the group provides a comfortable, informal setting for participants to enjoy a variety of activities at the Center or in the community. For questions about registration, please contact Leah Schwartz at 301-348-3735 or lschwartz@benderjccgw.org. For questions about the program, please contact Marcy Bennett at 240-283-6031 or mbennett@jfgh.org.

Isadore & Bertha Gudelsky Exceptional Swim Program

For over 20 years, the Gudelsky Exceptional Swim Program has been helping children, teens, and adults with orthopedic-related disabilities enjoy aquatics. The program partners professional staff members (a coordinator, physical therapist, and adaptive water instructors) and volunteers with participants to teach swimming basics and help students feel comfortable in the water. This program is offered during the school year only, not in the summer. For questions and more information, contact Elon Walter at situbuw@aol.com .

In addition to the programs above, the Center provides everyday accommodations to ensure those with special needs feel comfortable, included, happy, involved—and remain safe—at all times. These daily accommodations include:

  • Sign language and oral interpreters
  • Infrared listening system in the Kreeger Auditorium
  • Wheelchair accessibility throughout Center facilities
  • Temporary wheelchairs for ease of movement throughout Center facilities
  • Flashing light alarm system


Volunteers are an essential part of our continuing efforts to integrate children, youth, teens, and adults with special needs throughout Bender JCC programming. Opportunities abound for those who would like to volunteer with those with special needs. For more information, contact Leah Schwartz at 301-348-3735 or lschwartz@benderjccgw.org.

Your gift today will enrich lives and sustain a warm and welcoming center for Jewish life in our community. Donate at benderjccgw.org/donate