Yesterday in a ceremony in Jerusalem, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the Boston-based Ruderman Family Foundation, and the Government of Israel launched a major partnership to benefit Israel’s 697,000 disabled adults. This will be the fifth JDC-Government of Israel joint effort dedicated to bettering the lives of the country’s vulnerable populations.

The $6 million partnership—Masad Disabilities—will unite Israel’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance, and National Insurance Institute with JDC and the Ruderman Family Foundation to advance the independent living and integration of disabled populations into general Israeli society through innovative models of services; and to promote inter-ministerial cooperation and pooling inter-organizational resources to ensure the needs of the disabled are more fully met.

“Through Masad Disabilities, a unique trilateral partnership, we will offer innovative responses to a number of critical trends in the disabled community in Israel, including the increase in the number of adults with severe disabilities,” said Tammy Barnea, director of JDC’s Unit for Disabilities and Rehabilitation. “These trends greatly impact the lives of people with disabilities and their families, and we need an integrated system of services to support them.”

JDC currently has four existing partnerships in Israel—ESHEL, for the elderly; Ashalim, for children and youth at risk; TEVET, for the unemployed; and Masad Klita, for new immigrants. Masad Disabilities will seek to build a viable system to support the growing needs of the ever-expanding population of disabled Israeli adults.

The Ruderman Family Foundation, under the leadership of its president Jay Ruderman, is known for its progressive work with children with special needs in Boston’s Jewish day school system. Mr. Ruderman is a recognized voice among philanthropists pioneering new partnership models and causes.

“Our strategic effort with JDCIsrael and the Israeli government will allow us to implement in Israel the vast experience we have accumulated by helping children with special needs in Boston. With the faith we have in the work of JDC, we enthusiastically decided to be a founding partner and influence the quality of life for disabled Israelis,” said Ruderman.

In addition to the partnership’s main goals, it will also address the social barriers and health-related challenges faced by several groups within Israel’s disabled adult population (ages 18-67). Among them are parents with disabilities, people with multiple disabilities, newly disabled individuals, immigrants with disabilities, young adults, and aging adults.

Among parents with disabilities, new services likely to be developed include specialized parental counseling, parent support groups, assistance in accessing family services, and better dissemination of information. For people with multiple disabilities, new programs may include the training of professionals, formal coordination among different service agencies, and improving physical accessibility to mental health services.

For the newly disabled—some 10,000 individuals per year—programs may include vocational rehabilitation, new assistive technologies to increase autonomy, and emotional support in coping with trauma.

Among immigrants with disabilities—38% of whom live in poverty and community stigmas which hinder the disabled from seeking treatment—programs may include increasing awareness among immigrants of importance of treatment, campaigns to eradicate stigmas, and translation of information on entitlements and services into their native languages.

For young adults programs will focus on providing specialized counseling to young adults and their families, training young adults in daily life skills, continuing education, economic self-sufficiency, and health needs. And finally, among aging adults, new programs will focus on improving coordination between service agencies for the disabled and those for the elderly as well as methods of formalizing new family care.

“I am sure that the partnership between the different organizations will allow us to change the lives of hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities living in Israel and offer them an equal opportunity to study, work, volunteer and integrate into the community,” noted Yitzhak Hertzog, Israel’s minister of welfare and social affairs.