For the fourth straight year, hundreds of students from Jewish day schools and Hebrew schools across the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and even Poland are learning about the care, rehabilitation and advancement of children with severe disabilities by creating unique sensory Chanukah cards that will lift the spirits of their peers at ADI (www.adi-israel.org), a network of specialized care and empowerment for the most vulnerable members of Israeli society.
The inspired young artists from more than 30 schools were spurred into action by one of the many inclusion-focused challenges posed by the organization’s ADI Bechinuch disability inclusion program, a robust curriculum of interactive modules and STEM projects that highlight the importance of disability inclusion and transform the students into disability advocates and agents of change in their own communities.
Ahead of Chanukah, the students’ holiday masterpieces, which include bright colors, interesting textures and 3D elements that are fun for ADI’s residents and special education students with severe disabilities to look at and touch, are being delivered to the organization’s two centers in Jerusalem and the Negev by the boxful, underscoring just how easy and beautiful inclusion can be.
“In a world that is often darkened with hatred and intolerance, we need to teach our children to shine the light of empathy and compassion,” said Elie Klein, ADI’s director of development for the U.S. and Canada. “The ADI Bechinuch programming broaches the subject with sensitivity and imagination, employing fun and engaging lessons, activities and simulations to teach students of every age how to open their hearts and minds to the needs and challenges of others.”
“For example, this Chanukah-themed workshop first teaches students how art therapy is used to help our ADI family members with severe disabilities reach their greatest potential before encouraging the students to use the same mediums to enhance the holiday for the ADI residents and special education students. In addition to presenting them with a compelling reason to do something thoughtful for others, the creative process becomes an opening for a class discussion about the abilities that can be found within every disability and how they can promote disability inclusion in their own communities and beyond.”
In the months ahead, the ADI Bechinuch partner schools, including many affiliated with Jewish National Fund-USA, will continue to explore the importance and impact of disability inclusion by completing interactive modules, taking virtual tours of ADI Jerusalem and ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran, and creating simple STEM projects to enhance the lives of individuals with disabilities in their communities. In February, the schools will also participate in ADI’s ‘Make the Change Challenge,’ an international STEM accessible design contest to mark Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month (JDAIM).
“The enthusiasm and genuine excitement with which the students at our ADI Bechinuch partner schools approach each element of the curriculum is nothing short of extraordinary,” added Klein. “It’s clear that these young leaders are not only beginning to understand the realities of disability and how it connects us all, but they are also internalizing the fact that they can take an active role in making the kind of inclusive changes we so desperately need in this world.”
ADI provides its residents and special education students with the individualized growth plans and specialized services they need to grow and thrive; its rehabilitation patients with the treatments and therapies they need to heal and return to their lives; and the community at large with tangible opportunities for encountering disability, raising awareness and promoting acceptance.