Sue Wolf-Fordham was born in Boston in 1958 to a mother who was active in international Jewish affairs and a father who spent World War II looking for refuge throughout Europe. Sue Wolf-Fordham’s experience as the parent of a special-needs child drove her to create resources for families of disabled children around the world. Wolf-Fordham was already involved with disability issues as a paralegal and law student at Boston University. Still, her work took a personal turn when her daughter was born with multiple disabilities. On a trip to Ukraine with her mother, Judy Wolf, Wolf-Fordham was struck by the prejudice against special-needs children. The two collaborated with the Jewish Family & Children's Service and the local community to create an Educational Resource Center in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, for the disabled. The center engages special-needs children with learning programs, therapeutic toys, and activities and provides support for families and training for teachers. Returning to her home community of Boston, Wolf-Fordham continued her work by creating Yesodot, a program of the Jewish Vocational Sources that helps families of special-needs children find resources and community support. Sue Wolf-Fordham was honored at the 2005 Women Who Dared event in Boston.
Sue Wolf-Fordham can’t recall a time when she wasn’t passionate about social justice. She recalls that her mother was very engaged with the Boston Jewish community and the Kehillah Projects, exposing her to political spaces from a young age. Wolf-Fordham describes a conversation she had with her mother about children in Ukraine with disabilities, which sparked a project to build and distribute adaptive tools in the area. Wolf-Fordham became familiar with adaptive equipment after teaching herself to build tools for her daughter, who has a disability. The project joined Wolf-Fordham’s dedication to accessibility with her mother’s passion for international relations and politics. After successfully pitching accessible tools to a representative from Dnepropetrovsk, Wolf-Fordham talks about getting in touch with the U.N. office in Kyiv before traveling to the city in 1996. Wolf-Fordham reflects on the hilarity and oddities that ensued on the trip, on which she took her mother and father. She and her mother collaborated with the Jewish Family & Children's Service and the local community to create an Educational Resource Center in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, for the disabled. The center engages special-needs children with learning programs, therapeutic toys, and activities and provides support for families and training for teachers. Wolf-Fordham also discusses her involvement with Yesodot, the Boston Jewish communities' family support program for Jewish families with younger adult children with disabilities. She recalls initially saying yes to the job because she could see the future for her daughter in it. She notes the intersection of her two projects and how the skills she learned in Dnepropetrovsk can be applied to her work at Yesodot. Wolf-Fordham closes the interview by sharing her hope to share some of the meaning of social activism with her kids and to incorporate it into her parenting.
How to cite this page
Oral History of Sue Wolf-Fordham . Interviewed by Julie Johnson. 4 March 2005. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on November 29, 2023) <https://jwa.org/oralhistories/wolf-fordham-sue>.
Oral History of Sue Wolf-Fordham by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jwa.org/contact/OralHistory.