As I have noted in this space, the Ruderman Family Foundation recently had the distinct pleasure of announcing the recipients of the 2012 Ruderman Prize in Disability. More than 170 applicants represented a wide range of deserving organizations doing interesting and important work. In their deliberations the judges returned repeatedly to the original goals for the Prize: to support the pursuit of Excellence and Innovation, in services, advocacy and support of Jews with disabilities worldwide. Today we present the second in a series of Zeh Lezeh blogs spotlighting each of the ten recipients in turn.
AKIM Israel has been dedicated to enabling Israel’s people with intellectual disabilities to live full and meaningful lives since 1951. Comprehensive programming includes assistance and support for families, support for the exercise of legal entitlements, housing assistance, inclusion into fair employment, and enrichment of leisure activities, self-expression and creativity.
All of these activities are laudatory; however, the Ruderman prize judges have recognized AKIM specifically for its groundbreaking work on inclusion in the Israel Defense Forces. Unlike for American youth, for most young Israelis service in the IDF is a normal part of life in the years between high school and college. Service becomes a core rite of passage in Israeli society and an empowering, transformative experience. AKIM is working now to make that experience open to people with intellectual disabilities, enabling them to perform significant supportive and productive tasks as part of IDF service. This project works with both the individual and the rest of the military unit to maximize adjustment and success.
AKIM staff believe that service in the IDF could be one of the first fully inclusive experiences that these soldiers will have, many after eighteen years of social marginalization. Ultimately, inclusive IDF service will instill a sense of achievement and pride in all people with intellectual disabilities in Israel.
As one of our judges remarked, “While AKIM is already recognized as among the leading organizations that works with and on behalf of persons with intellectual disabilities in Israel, our panel of judges wanted especially to recognize their program to include young adults with disabilities in the IDF and military service. This service is a core value of Israel society and we salute AKIM in promoting this full inclusion.”
Please join me in congratulating AKIM Israel for their groundbreaking work!
— Jay Ruderman