At a time when the Israeli Government is planning a strategic restructuring of its welfare services with the aim of making them more inclusive, Israel Unlimited -; a disabilities-focused partnership of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) in Israel, the Israeli Government, and the Ruderman Family Foundation -; is cooperating with The Ted Arison Family Foundation and the United States Embassy in Israel to bring a renowned delegation from The National Leadership Consortium at the University of Delaware to address a seminar tackling the most pressing issues in the field of disabilities today. The confab, which will be held on February 8 in the central Israeli city of Ma’ale Hachamisha, is focused on promoting cutting-edge innovation among Israeli leaders and decision makers in the field of disabilities.
‘It’s time to advance and adapt our system to focus on individuals with disabilities and tailor services to his or her needs. Together, we can help the million plus Israelis with disabilities fulfill their dreams and fully and robustly participate in everyday life, including work, housing, education, leisure , creating families, and fostering friendships, ‘ said Avital Sandler-Loeff, JDC’s disabilities expert and Director of Israel Unlimited. ‘We’re excited by the opportunity to bring together Israeli and American policy makers, leaders with disabilities, and all of the other relevant stakeholders to learn about and implement significant change. An inclusive society, after all, is a better and stronger society.’
Seminar workshops will include creating individualized plans for the disabled, personal budgeting, independent living, developing leadership roles within the field of disabilities, alternatives to guardianship, and addressing systemic changes in employment, relationships, recreation, and education. Additionally, best practices from the U.S. that have enabled the country to improve its level of disability services will be highlighted. The one-day seminar is a part of a wider week-long conference in which leading professionals will discuss up-to-date policies and services in the sector with Israeli officials and advocates, including housing and independent living solutions.
‘The issue of housing in general, and for people with disabilities in particular, demands a big revolution in Israel. The conference’s purpose is to promote the securing of resources for one, and a revolution in the perception of someone with disabilities as worthy and entitled to live in the community. Finding the answers will also facilitate solutions for additional target populations, and generate a quality of life that enables real inclusion and a change in attitudes among the general public,’ said Shira Ruderman, Israel Director of the Ruderman Family Foundation.
Speakers will include Steven Eidelman, the University of Delaware’s H. Rodney Sharp Professor of Human Services Policy and Leadership; Lynne Seagle, Executive Director of Hope House Foundation; Professor Nancy Weiss, Director of the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities at the University of Delaware; and Ari Ne’eman, President and Co-Founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. The group has led over 30 leadership workshops in the United States that have led to significant changes within the leadership of senior government officials, non-profit organizations, and disabilities foundations and leaders. Ne’eman, nominated by U.S. President Barack Obama to the National Council on Disability, is Jewish and autistic. He will tell his personal story, as well as stress the importance of using community integration concepts in residential, employment, and day services.
‘Disabilities has been one of the foundation’s main fields of operation in all its years of philanthropic activity in Israel, rooted in its aspiration to advance an equal, tolerant and inclusive society by supporting organizations and projects that raise awareness and assist children, young people, and seniors with a wide spectrum of disabilities. The foundation’s activities stem from our firm belief that inclusion of people with disabilities constitutes the cornerstone for independent living within the community, based on the values of respect, innovation, and creativity,’ said Shlomit de Vries, CEO of The Ted Arison Family Foundation.
Currently, Israel has 10,000 people with disabilities living in institutions and one of Israel Unlimited’s goals is to create services to allow people who want to leave these institutions or their parents’ homes to live independently.