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Mission Possible: LA Special Needs Delegation Visits Israel
From our opening Shabbat service on the sandy beach in Tel Aviv to our final visit at the Kotel during sunset, the Special Needs Study Mission was truly an extraordinary week with a high level of emotional intensity and bonding within the group. As a group of 36 participants, we visited almost every corner of the country looking at innovative programs and services and we were caught up in the passion and commitment for people with developmental disabilities shown by the staff and parents who we met along the way.
What comes next? In each of the programs we asked ourselves: Does this program model inclusion in the community and accessibility? What are the elements that make it sustainable and how can we adapt it for Los Angeles? Are we catering to the strengths, rather than weaknesses, of those with whom we work and how can we ensure meaningful and productive work? To what degree can we collaborate and advocate for the collective good rather than benefit each of us separately?
As Judy Mark said in the closing circle, “I hope we can take a bit of the spark from Israel and keep it going back in Los Angeles.”
Now that we are back home, the Special Needs Mission morphs from being an inspiring collective experience to a key communal touchstone, one that will serve as a dividing line between “before” and “after” in terms of new/expanded programs for young adults with developmental disabilities. As we return to our respective organizations and share what we learned, many new ideas and programs are being advanced for implementation. Some of those programs will involve multiple agencies, while others may be more of a change of attitude and approach to existing programs. Whatever form these new directions take us, we will be able to look back at our time together in Israel as where it all began.
Please take a few moments to check out our mission blog featuring pictures and thoughts from our participants while on the ground.
Thank you to everyone who participated on this trip and all the programs and people we met with in Israel (see below).
And many thanks to the LA Jewish Federation for making this dream a reality.
For more information on the programs we visited and learned about on our trip, please visit:
- AKIM Program of the Israel Defense Forces
- Aleh Negev
- Ayalim Association
- Beit Eckstein
- Beit Issie Shapiro
- Bizchut - The Israel Human Rights Center for People with Disabilities
- Kamah Association / Beit Elisha at Kibbutz Harduf
- The International Center for the Enhancement of Learning Potential (Feuerstein Institute)
- Israel Elwyn
- Israel Unlimited
- JDC Independent Living Center
- JDC Supportive Community
- JDC Young Adult Center
- Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute
- Nalagaat Center
For information on the Special Needs Mission to Israel and post-mission implementation work, please contact Lori Klein at email@example.com.