By Russell F. Robinson
Jewish National Fund (JNF-USA) is once again calling attention to those who are sometimes forgotten during Jewish Disabilities Awareness & Inclusion Month (JDAIM). As part of our focus on improving quality of life for all in Israel, JNF-USA is dedicated to ensuring that no member of Israeli society is left behind. Observed each February, JDAIM was founded in 2009 by the Jewish Special Education International Consortium to raise awareness and encourage inclusion for people with disabilities and special needs.
People with disabilities make up the world’s largest minority group. Globally, around 10% of the world’s population lives with a disability of some kind. Nineteen percent of people in the U.S. and over 10% of people in Israel have some form of disability that can make life’s daily activities a struggle. These statics are just the beginning. Take into account the family, friends, and loved ones of those with disabilities who are also affected and these numbers skyrocket. This is where JNF-USA and the importance of JDAIM come in.
“Many people with physical, emotional, and developmental disabilities in Israel feel alienated from their communities, sometimes the entire family feels marginalized, complicating an already challenging life,” says JNF-USA Task Force on Disabilities Director Yossi Kahana, whose son has autism. “At Jewish National Fund we open the doors to acceptance and inclusion and are we changing lives for thousands of children and their families every day.”
Throughout the month of February, we hosted over 50 events across the country to highlight JDAIM, featuring representatives from the organization’s partners to raise awareness of and foster inclusion for people with disabilities and special needs.
“Through a variety of initiatives, JNF-USA provides cutting-edge rehabilitative services, special education, and medical care for people with cognitive, sensory, communicative, developmental, and other disabilities. In addition, Jewish National Fund makes its forests, parks, picnic areas, playgrounds, nature trails, lookouts and recreational facilities inclusive for all visitors, ensuring that everyone regardless of their ability level is able to enjoy nature with their friends and family.”
Our partners in this mission include:
– ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran: A state-of-the-art rehabilitative village in the Negev, ALEH Negev offers unparalleled care for people with severe disabilities, empowering residents and outpatients to help them reach their potential for communication and development.
– LOTEM-Making Nature Accessible: LOTEM brings people with special needs closer to nature through field trips, accessible hikes in JNF’s first inclusive park, and creative workshops in nature that have been adapted to the needs of participants and for people of all ages.
– Red Mountain Therapeutic Riding Center at Kibbutz Grofit (RMTRC): RMTRC provides weekly horseback riding therapy to nearly 200 children and adults with physical and mental disabilities, as well as emotional and behavioral issues in Israel’s Arava region.
– Special in Uniform: An innovative and unique program, Special in Uniform integrates youth with disabilities into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and assists in preparing them for careers following army the completion of their service.
Like all of Jewish National Fund’s efforts for the land and people of Israel, its work for those with disabilities and special needs is not limited to a month, but every day. Over the last year, we have made great strides in improving the quality of life for those with disabilities and special needs, providing services for 45,000 people including:
– Hosting over one million visitors with LOTEM at JNF-USA’s inclusive trail in Nahal HaShofet.
– Creating a pathway for 360 participants to join Special in Uniform and expanding the program’s presence to 22 IDF bases – and watching 20 soldiers graduate and successfully integrate into the workforce and Israeli society.
– Administering over 7,000 individual outpatient treatments at ALEH Negev and welcoming 140 permanent residents at its rehabilitative village.
– Providing 10,000 therapy sessions at Red Mountain Therapeutic Riding Center, and 9,200 sessions for 160 children through JNF-USA scholarships.
To witness how JNF-USA helps people with disabilities and their families, check out this special video.
To learn more about our partners in Israel, please visit jnf.org/disabilities.
This article was originally published on Times of Israel.