Starting with today’s blog, every so often I’m going to take this opportunity to introduce you to some of the people whom our Foundation has been privileged to help. I personally find their spirit and their courage inspiring and I hope that, by “meeting” them this way, you do too.
Ari has spent the last nine years in a wheelchair, ever since a brain tumor robbed him of his ability to walk, his musical career and his marriage. But it didn’t rob him of his optimism or his skill as a drummer. Now 41, Ari is one of 13 individuals with disabilities (including one married couple) who make their home in the supportive environment of Shalheveth’s apartments on Jerusalem’s Shimeoni Street.
Supports for these adults with a range of disabilities include a staff social worker, caretakers, job placement services and Shabbat dinners. In addition, kitchens and bathrooms were designed with low sinks and other adaptive fixtures to maximize independence. “We live here in a community,” says Ari, who’s now able to play the drums on a computerized pad and is a member of the House Organization which makes decisions that impact all the residents.
And now, he’s also learning how to be loving once again. “I knew how to be in a relationship the way I was,” he says, “Now I want to learn how to be a couple the way I am now. And I need advice.”
Our Foundation is now partnering with Shalheveth to give Ari and his fellow residents this kind of advice. The “Significant Others” Project lets them know that disabilities don’t have to keep them from having the kinds of satisfying romantic relationships the rest of us take for granted. They learn how through workshops and one-on-one counseling by both a social worker and a personal coach. In addition, Romantic Interludes, a short documentary film about the project, is airing on Israeli TV, raising awareness of — and sensitivity to — the needs of people with disabilities and their capacity for love and companionship.
“I’ve been hoping to find someone who can be a good friend for the rest of my life,” Ari said. “The counselor is able to answer my questions. She makes me look at things differently, and a lot more positively.”
— Jay Ruderman