“Hashem is close to the brokenhearted; those crushed in spirit He delivers.” Psalms 34:19 (The Israel Bible™)
The Israeli Ministry of Education is instituting special programming this February, the 10th annual Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), that will expose and educate Israeli high school students to peers with disabilities.
The program, called “Tikkun Olam,” is a program that runs the length of the entire school year but is increasing the amount of programming for JDAIM and was initiated by ALEH, an organization caring for children with severe and complex disabilities. Avi Wortzman, Director General of ALEH’s rehabilitative village in the Negev and the brains behind “Tikkun Olam,” celebrated the program’s launch.
“We couldn’t be prouder of this program, which is the fulfillment of a dream for ALEH,” he said. “Working together with the Ministry of Education, we are educating towards change on a grand scale and seeing immediate results countrywide.”
Tikkun Olam will place emphasis on the importance of acceptance and inclusion through lectures, workshops, and hands-on volunteering opportunities. It comprises 15 events including educational seminars and field activities with the disabled. There will also be a fully-accessible Purim carnival at Yeshivat Bnei Akiva Lapid in Modiin where there will be more interpersonal contact and in which 80 students from the Harim School for Special Needs in Givat Ada, will be the guests of honor.
The aim of Tikkun Olam is to instill in youth a yearning to volunteer for people with disabilities, and Wortzman is very confident and optimistic.
“Now that every participating school in Israel has become an ALEH satellite and a megaphone for the cause, our ability to impact the public and spread the messages of acceptance and inclusion has increased tenfold, and we are making a real difference for individuals with disabilities well beyond the walls of our own residential facilities,’ he said.
The program has already made an impact on many of the participants including Avi Ben-Torah, a National Service Volunteer for ALEH’s rehabilitative village in the Negev.
“I can see the changes in the students as they learn about inclusion and begin to understand why giving is so much better than receiving,” he said. “By teaching them these lessons while they are young and providing them with these important growth experiences before they become self-absorbed, we will change Israeli society for the better.”
Tamar Megidon Sharett, also a Tikkun Olam participant and social education coordinator at the Naamat Hasharon Technological High School in Hod Hasharon, made similar remarks.
“This project is incredible, and we are already seeing a change in the way that our students talk about and interact with individuals with disabilities,” she said. “It has made them more sensitive and empathetic, and they are excited to give of their time to help others.”