MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The haredi (ultra-Orthodox) sector is giving up its shame about its physically
and disabled children and will no longer sweep those with special needs under
the carpet, United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni said Monday.
speaking at the first-of-its-kind conference of Kamocha – the roof body of
religious and haredi voluntary organizations that work with disabled children
and young adults.
He said at the Jerusalem International Convention
Center that an about-face has taken place in the observant community, especially
among haredim who worried that a special needs child in the family would make it
difficult for siblings to find arranged-marriage partners.
attitude, he said, is that they were born in God’s image and have a soul, the
haredi MK said.
“We are leading the struggle for this change. We are not
Gafni said the haredi community will be discriminated against
in his struggle, but the voluntary organizations will work together, and haredi
organizations in the field will “do it better than others. We take
secular Jews and traditional Jews and benefit them as well.”
represents Alei Siach, Aleh, Petahya, Sulam and other voluntary organizations in
the country to meet the needs of the physically and mentally disabled child and
young adult. These range from the deaf to those with cerebral palsy, autism,
Down syndrome and other disabilities. The conference was initiated and addressed
by Rabbi Chaim Perkal, founder and CEO of Alei Siach, the leading outreach
organization to the special needs community in the Jerusalem area, who got
involved years ago as a result of the births of two disabled children to him and
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who made a brief appearance, said
he often visits haredi and modern Orthodox institutions for the disabled and is
“They are pioneers. They push the public system to do more. At
this conference, every organization puts its ego to the side, and they all work
together for the cause. They learn from others’ successes, as do people
in hitech. With its attention to the individual, the special needs
institutions teach a lot to the regular system.”
Gideon Sa’ar said: “Every child is a whole world and has the right to take
advantage of his potential with what God gave him. The society is judged
according to the way it treats its weakest links.”
He said individuals
who work in special education “are special people.”
Welfare and Social
Services Minister Moshe Kahlon said he was impressed by the way the haredi
community cooperates with his ministry to better their children even when they
have long kept their distance from the establishment.
Twenty percent of
the ministry’s grants now go to the haredi sector. There are 310,000 children
with special needs – 12.8 percent of all Israeli children. Only 25,500 get
allotments to help with their disability, and half of their parents say they
suffer from worry and anxiety about their care and future.