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UK Chief Rabbi Is Captivated by ALEH’s Disability Care
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Jerusalem—On Thursday, May 25, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, visited the Jerusalem facility of ALEH (www.aleh.org), Israel’s foremost network of state-of-the-art facilities for children with severe complex disabilities, to learn about ALEH’s high-level medical and rehabilitative care and what Jewish communities around the world can do to promote true disability inclusion in Israel.
Shlomit Grayevsky, the director of ALEH Jerusalem, took the chief rabbi on a private tour of the facility, pointing out the specially designed living quarters, high-tech special education classrooms and top-of-the-line rehabilitation rooms, as well as all of the other tools used to provide the residents with a continuum of loving care from infancy and childhood through adulthood.
“Thanks to ALEH’s professional staff and innovative programming, Israeli children with complex disabilities of every age are able to live much like their non-disabled peers, are accepted by a wider segment of the population and develop far beyond the boundaries of their initial prognoses,” Grayevsky explained to Chief Rabbi Mirvis during the tour.
“We at ALEH believe that every person has a natural right to dignity, the highest quality of life and to reach their fullest potentials in a loving and supportive community. On a daily basis, we help children with complex disabilities advance, grow and live happy, dignified and meaningful lives.”
Throughout the tour, Chief Rabbi Mirvis noted how impressed he was with the attention given to each child by ALEH’s dedicated staff and volunteers as well as the pioneering rehabilitative and special education techniques developed by the organization to aid and care for Israel’s disability community.
“This was a very emotional and inspirational experience for me. It is clear that ALEH doesn’t only help the children, they impact entire families. This is important work for all of Klal Yisrael, and the dedication shown by ALEH’s staff underscores the fact that every Jewish soul is important and deserving of love and care,” said Chief Rabbi Mirvis following the tour.
“From the bottom of my heart, I applaud you and thank you for the work that you are doing here to give these wonderful children a full life. I am proud that in London we have so many generous people who are very supportive of ALEH. I will make it a priority to share what I have seen here today with our constituents across the UK so that this support only continues to grow.”
The chief rabbi expressed interest in a joint initiative between ALEH and the United Hebrew Congregations of Great Britain and the Commonwealth that would further educate his Jewish communities about the importance of disability inclusion, and he discussed his desire to include ALEH as one of the main stops on the semi-annual rabbinic mission to Israel, a program that draws rabbis from across the UK.
Following the recruitment of an impressive “ALEH Ascend” team for the Jerusalem Marathon in March, ALEH Jerusalem continues to celebrate its 20th anniversary in style. Under the theme “The Unification of all People in Jerusalem,” a nod to the 50th anniversary of the historic reunification of Jerusalem, ALEH will be organizing and hosting several events to celebrate its impact on the acceptance and inclusion of individuals with disabilities in Israel’s capital over the last two decades.
Events will include the seventh annual “ALEH Marches Forward” event on the Jerusalem Chords Bridge, a powerful and symbolic display to encourage “bridging” the inclusion gap for individuals with disabilities in Israeli society; the inauguration of the new state-of-the-art rehabilitation floor at ALEH’s Jerusalem facility; and a gala dinner to mark the anniversary and honor the memory of Rivka Chervin-Weinberger, founder and longtime chair of the ALEH Jerusalem Ladies Committee.
ALEH was founded in 1982 by a group of Israeli parents who were determined to give their children with severe complex disabilities the best available care and the opportunity to develop to their fullest potentials. After more than three decades of successful growth and exciting advancements, ALEH has become Israel’s foremost network of state-of-the-art facilities for children with severe complex disabilities, providing over 700 children across the country with high-level medical and rehabilitative care in four residential facilities, located in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Gedera and the Negev. ALEH is their home and their family—24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
ALEH’s goal is to enable each child, regardless of the severity of the disability, to realize his or her fullest potential and live a high-quality and fulfilling life. Over the last 34 years, ALEH has become a global community based on the principles of sensitivity, commitment and kindness, making a difference in the lives of Israel’s most vulnerable children and building a better, more caring world.
Upon his return to England, Rabbi Mirvis published a beautiful letter, describing ALEH as “a place where angels are loved and cared for by angels,” and taking upon himself to become a Patron of the British Friends of ALEH.