This past Monday, the Ruderman Family Foundation organized a first of its kind conference in Israel – a conference solely for NGOs focused on the inclusion of people with disabilities into Israeli society. What made the conference unique is that a funder took a leadership role in coalescing a field in order to increase the overall impact on society. The conference brought together CEO’s and Board Chairs from over fifty NGOs working in the field.
Shira Ruderman, director of the foundations Israel operations, discussed the goals of the conference in her opening remarks: “The purpose of the conference was to discuss issues facing the inclusion of people with disabilities in Israeli society, to introduce the organizations working in the field to each other and begin to strengthen the networking, collaboration and sharing within the organizations themselves.”
As many of the participants were meeting each other for the first time, everyone was divided into groups and participated in breakout sessions. These sessions gave people a chance to learn about their fellow organizations and to discuss dilemmas facing the inclusion of people with disabilities. The sessions included: Increasing awareness, workforce development, the impact of inclusion in bettering society and how partnerships can improve the overall inclusion effort.
In his keynote address, Rabbi Benny Lau, of the Israel Democracy Institute, discussed Judaism’s approach to inclusion: “If there is one thing the Jewish people have to offer humanity, it’s the notion that we are created in the image of God – that we are all partners and the idea of hiding or not accepting someone because they may have a physical or mental disability is completely contrary to Judaism and the ways of the Torah. Sometimes organizations are very involved with their own work. This conference, bringing everyone together, allows us to create a common language and be a light unto the nations.”
The conference will be a springboard for creating a joint dialogue between the many nonprofits working with people with disabilities. The Ruderman Family Foundation will be facilitating this conversation in the hopes of creating partnerships among organizations and a shared vision of how to put the issue of inclusion on the Israeli national agenda.