This year, Simchat Torah came early for Israel’s disability community. On Thursday, October 17, Chol Hamoed Sukkot, ALEH hosted a joyous grand opening celebration for Bet Chayil, its new, state-of-the-art special education school and rehabilitative center in the heart of Bnei Brak, dedicated by longtime ALEH supporters Leo and Susan Noé in loving memory of Leo’s parents, Salomon and Ruchi Noé z”l. The festivities, which were presided over by ALEH’s Director General Rabbi Yehuda Marmostein in the presence of Torah luminary Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks and the extended Noé family, commenced with the inauguration of a Sefer Torah that was commissioned by Leo and Susan Noé as the spiritual focal point of Bet Chayil’s future synagogue and conference center.
In order to include the children of ALEH in the celebration, the precession began a few kilometers from Bet Chayil at ALEH’s rehabilitative and residential center in Bnei Brak, where hundreds of local residents joined in to embrace the ALEH residents, sing and dance with the new Torah, and march ALEH towards an even brighter and more impactful future.
“It is thrilling to see our dream become a reality. I remember sitting with Leo and Susan in their home 18 years ago, discussing the needs of our ALEH children and how a special education school and rehabilitative center of this size and scope could totally transform disability care in Israel,” said Rabbi Marmorstein at the ceremony. “Now, thanks to Leo and Susan Noé, it is finally time to usher in a new era for ALEH and Israel’s disability community. I am certain that Leo’s parents, Salomon and Ruchi Noé of blessed memory, are so proud of them for establishing this holy place and will watch over us all.”
Bet Chayil, the largest educational and rehabilitative day center in Israel, will serve more than 350 infants, children and adults with special needs, offering a wide variety of services under one roof, including early intervention programs, special education preschools and kindergartens, and private rehabilitation therapies. Like every other center in the ALEH network, Bet Chayil will provide therapeutic programs specially designed to meet each student’s individual needs.
Following the lively communal celebration, Leo and Susan Noé were joined by their family and friends at Bet Chayil for a moving building dedication ceremony, the placement of the building’s mezuzah by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, and a guided tour of the expansive special education school and rehabilitative center led by Rabbi Marmorstein.
“My parents, Salomon and Ruchi Noé, were very modest people, who would have been overwhelmed by the fanfare of this beautiful event. Above all, they focused on productivity, and would want to see this building be productive in caring for our neediest children and providing employment to so many – the fulfillment of people’s potential at every level,” said Mr. Noé at the elegant buffet dinner that followed the dedication ceremony.
“On Sukkot, we sit in temporary dwellings to remind us of the Ananei Hakavod – “clouds of glory” – used by God to shield and protect the Jewish people during their travels through the desert, when we were most vulnerable. In contrast, we must remember that there are certain segments of society that are always vulnerable and require a permanent structure to shield and protect them. It is our hope that this building will be their Ananei Hakavod, providing them with the protection, assistance and opportunities for advancement that they require.”
The evening concluded with the insightful words of Rabbi Lord Sacks, a close friend of Leo Noé and longtime champion of ALEH, who admitted to being overwhelmed by the day’s events. “I was moved to tears as we all danced together with the Sefer Torah outside of ALEH, and I must say that all of my encounters with ALEH have been redemptive. Everyone who enters ALEH finds themselves surrounded by angels, as it is a place of pure chessed, true kindness and compassion.”
“During Sukkot, God entreats us to ‘rejoice in the festival’ – ‘Ve’Samachta Be’Chagecha.’ It’s important to realize that the word ‘joy’ is used rather than ‘happiness,’ because one can be happy on his own, but you can only have true joy when you share it with others,” explained Rabbi Lord Sacks. “As true builders, Leo and Susan have never forgotten where they come from, and part of that is remembering that they are not alone, that they have a responsibility to others. The Torah – and ALEH – teaches us Judaism’s most fundamental truth: a people is invulnerable when it cares for the vulnerable. We are all so grateful to Leo and Susan for taking this to heart and establishing Bet Chayil, this wonderful place that will help so many people, the most vulnerable among us.”
Bet Chayil will feature a dental clinic for individuals with disabilities, assistive devices workshop, animal-assisted therapy center, rehabilitative sensory park and Olympic-sized hydrotherapy pool, and will provide comprehensive services to both ALEH’s residents with multiple disabilities and members of the community at large, caring for issues ranging from minor developmental delays to complex care.