EXPERIENCING WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE DISABLED – FOR 15 MINUTES!
May 18, 2011
Yeshiva of Flatbush Joel Braverman High School students, faculty and parents have made it a tradition to visit the ALEH children and offer them unconditional love and acceptance. This tradition has been carried on by the school’s alumni, proving that the strong Jewish values of empathy, communal responsibility, and chessed instilled by Yeshiva of Flatbush are embodied by its students well after they have graduated.
This year’s visiting alumni, led by Rabbi Naftali Besser, did more than simply visit with the children: they actually put themselves in the shoes of the disabled children they had grown to love. In an experiential, interactive encounter, the group of Yeshiva of Flatbush alumni and their spouses sampled the facility’s many therapies and experienced the limitations of disability firsthand.
Some were blindfolded and bound in different ways to simulate limited vision and physical disabilities (the reality for the vast majority of ALEH’s residents). Others underwent physical therapy exercises, experienced the benefits of music therapy or occupational therapy, and sat in the center’s Snoezelen (sensory room), all under the guidance of ALEH’s professional team of therapists, who explained how they assist ALEH’s children to better see, feel, smell, etc.
Many of the participants worked side by side with ALEH children in their vocational therapy workshop, learning how to use special techniques (such as flipping a switch through bending their pinky, or by moving their elbow) to create beautiful artwork.
The experiential program was the brainchild of Rachel Fishheimer, principal of ALEH Jerusalem’s special education school. “By going through this type of experience, our visitors can better understand the challenges a disabled child lives with on a daily basis. They can also identify more with ALEH’s goal: to look beyond the disability to see the inherent potential within each and every child,” she explained.
The alumni group spent time interacting with the children on an individual level, and singing and dancing with them. The atmosphere at ALEH was charged with warmth, love and joy, and the children’s expressions reflected those feelings.
In the words of one Yeshiva of Flatbush alumni visitor: “If you think all angels live in heaven, you haven’t visited ALEH, a special place where angels are loved and cared for by angels.”
ALEH offers its heartfelt thanks to the group, not only for giving so generously of their time, but also for the inspiration to continue striving for a better society, by providing the most vulnerable among us with the opportunity to live a life full of growth, joy and love.
If your group or school would like to visit ALEH’s children when you are in Israel, contact Dov
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