ALEH’S ‘Tikkun Olam’ program teaching Israeli Teens importance of Disability Inclusion

An Israeli high school student from Givat Washington in Yavne assists an ALEH resident with a Tu B’Shvat activity during a ‘Tikkun Olam’ workshop.

In September 2016, ALEH, Israel’s network of care for children with severe complex disabilities, joined forces with Israel’s Ministry of Education to launch “Tikkun Olam,” an experiential education program that exposes Israeli high school students to peers with disabilities and imparts the importance of acceptance and inclusion through lectures, workshops and hands-on volunteering opportunities. Building upon the success of its 2016-17 pilot program, ALEH will enhance Tikkun Olam’s offerings during the 2017-18 school year, beginning with the roll out of special programming to mark Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM) at schools across the country.

Geared towards students entering the ninth grade, Tikkun Olam was established to bring about a change in societal attitude towards individuals with disabilities through youth leadership and community engagement. In its first year, more than 10,000 Israeli students from 60 schools participated in the program, leading to a noticeable spike in youth-led volunteerism and social activism initiatives.

At every school, the Tikkun Olam programming begins with a lecture by a disability care professional that introduces the students to the various types of disabilities, the concept of accessibility, and the impact of inclusion on society at large. Students then participate in a variety of workshops that range from meetings with teenagers and adults with disabilities who explain how they navigate their worlds on a daily basis to informational videos about specific visible and invisible disabilities to hands-on “disability experiences,” such as navigating an obstacle course in wheelchairs, walking the school grounds with blindfolds and canes, experiencing a sensory overload, and conversing in sign language while wearing noise-cancelling headphones.

Tikkun Olam’s special JDAIM programming is comprised of 15 events, including education seminars with new participants, field activities at ALEH centers, and a fully-accessible Purim carnival at Yeshivat Bnei Akiva Lapid in Modiin, where 80 students from the Harim School will be the guests of honor.