Students’ sensory Chanukah cards shine light on helping others with disabilities

Jewish Times
Group picture of school children תמונה קבוצתית של ילדי בית ספר

For the fourth straight year, hundreds of students from Jewish day schools and Hebrew schools across the United States, 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” to lift the spirits of their peers at ADI, a network of specialized care and empowerment for the most vulnerable members of Israeli society.

The inspired young artists from more than 30 schools, including Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School and Ohr Chadash Academy in Baltimore, 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, in addition to transforming 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 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.

“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,” says Baltimore native Elie Klein, ADI’s director of development for the United States 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.”

He adds that “the Chanukah-themed workshop first teaches students how art therapy is used. … The creative process also 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 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; by taking virtual tours of ADI Jerusalem and ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran; and by 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 the genuine excitement with which the students at Beth Tfiloh and OCA approach each element of the curriculum is nothing short of extraordinary,” notes 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.”

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