rECOGNIZING DIVERSITY DURING
NATIONAL DISABILITY EMPLOYMENT AWARENESS MONTH
October 23, 2019 – In recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), Jewish National Fund is highlighting the important professional contributions that people with different abilities make within our community. Jewish National Fund works with organizations like The Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan in the U.S. and Special in Uniform in Israel to provide opportunities for career development and placement for people with disabilities.
“I’m proud that Jewish National Fund supports programs that empower people with special needs both in the US and in Israel,” said Jewish National Fund Task Force on Disabilities Director, Yossi Kahana. “The fact that nearly 13% of people in both the US and Israel are considered physically or mentally challenged is an opportunity for us to live our values and embrace each and every member of our community. People with disabilities actually have a lot of ability and often, they just need to be given a chance.”
Jewish National Fund is involved in multiple initiatives that support individuals with special needs. One of these initiatives is Special in Uniform, an organization giving Israeli youth with disabilities the opportunity to integrate into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) because it recognizes that serving in the IDF is an integral part of life for young Israelis. In empowering people with disabilities, we are also finding opportunities for them to work with Jewish National Fund in the U.S.
“Every parent who has a child or other family member with a disability knows that they have so much to offer. I can honestly say that Jewish National Fund is so much richer because of our support for Special in Uniform in addition to cultivating a diverse workforce here in the US,” said Kahana.
Jewish National Fund is the leading philanthropic organization for Israel that supports critical environmental and nation-building activities in Israel’s north and south. Through its One Billion Dollar Roadmap for the Next Decade, Jewish National Fund is developing new communities in the Galilee and Negev, connecting the next generation to Israel, and creating infrastructure and programs that support ecology, individuals with special needs, and heritage site preservation.
“In honor of NDEAM, the Adaptations Job Program, part of the Jack and Shirley Silver Center for Special Needs at The Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan is proud and grateful to partner with Jewish National Fund in offering one of our participants a four-month internship," said Director of Adaptions Job Program, Andrea Goodman. “Opportunities like this are essential to our program that supports individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities in working on the social, communication, and vocational challenges that get in the way of attaining and maintaining employment. Through offering an internship, Jewish National Fund is providing meaningful work experience, an opportunity to increase self-esteem in addition to highlighting that young adults with disabilities are capable and dedicated employees.”
Special in Uniform's concept has also been replicated in the US. Recently, Jewish National Fund, the public safety and general services departments in Chesterfield County, Virginia, and Growth Through Opportunity (GTO) held a kickoff event to usher in the second GTO cadet academy. The academy provides adults of all ages who have autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and other unique challenges an opportunity to gain valuable job skills and social experience by participating in a 16-week cadet academy. With assistance from the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitation Services, GTO has selected seven cadets from Chesterfield County for the current cohort.
“Employing people with special needs breaks down stigmas and makes people see things in a new way,” said Jewish National Fund Graphic Design Intern and Adaptations Job Program Participant, Melissa Kivell. “Just because an individual may have needs that are different to the majority of employees doesn’t mean they don’t have anything beneficial to add. Often, we learn to see things in a different way or think in a unique way because our disabilities impact the way that we experience the world. This can often lead to new perspectives when confronting problems.”
Kivell’s advice to organizations considering bringing on people with special needs is to just do it. “We are great and have amazing things to offer! When you hire people with special needs, just remember to treat us like everyone else. Sometimes, we see the world differently and we have strategies to help us produce our best work. Often, seeing the world in a different way can greatly benefit an organization,” said Kivell.
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