Down's Syndrom guy lighting candles 311.
(photo credit: MELANIE LIDMAN)
Just a few years ago, Itamar Kafrei could not speak. Born with Down’s syndrome,
he was left in the hospital by his parents who did not know how to deal with a
child with disabilities. Though later adopted by a loving family, the feelings
of abandonment and severe developmental disabilities kept Kafrei from expressing
But on Monday night at David Yellin College in
Jerusalem, Kafrei got up in front of 100 people to share his thoughts about
being disabled, as part of a play he had written with his five
Like Me, Like You was written through a series of therapeutic
drama workshops with Alei Siach, an organization that provides independent
apartments and daily activities for small groups of religious developmentally
disabled men and women. The organization operates 23 apartments in
“I’d rather be like everyone else,” Kafrei said in a monologue
that was the highlight of the evening. “But this is how I was born, and this is
how I will stay... There are things I can do and there are things I can’t do,
and I have learned to be happy with what I have.”
After four days of
heartbreaking news filled with smoke and funerals following the Carmel fire
disaster, the evening provided moment of joy, and a reason to celebrate Alei
Siach’s success. The small, homey living arrangements help the residents thrive,
creating many success stories similar to Kafrei’s ability express himself so
movingly after so many years of silence.
This was the first time that
Alei Siach participants wrote, directed and acted in a play that was open to the
Musician Meir Banai donated his time and played a 45- minute
acoustic set following the play.
Rabbi Haim Parkel, whose daughter has
Down’s syndrome, founded Alei Siach in 1990. He was not satisfied with the
opportunities available for his daughter and other developmentally disabled
children and adults in the religious community. Along with a group of concerned
parents of disabled children, they created the first apartment-style full-time
care center for religious people with Down’s syndrome and severe
Parkel’s daughter is now 32 and married to another Alei Siach
The program is supported by the Jerusalem Municipality, the
Ministry of Welfare and Social Welfare, and donations.
“It’s just amazing
to see,” Jerusalem resident Linda Chaitowitz said. Chaitowitz is the mother of
Eliezer, one of the actors and a resident of the Alei Siach apartment that
performed Monday’s play.
“When he was born, the doctors said he would
never develop after the age of six. It was so traumatic to hear and so far from
the truth,” she said.
Eliezer, who has worked in the Knesset’s mailroom
for almost four years through Alei Siach’s employment program, kicked off the
event by lighting Hanukka candles. “Eliezer is probably more well-known in the
Knesset than Bibi himself,” his counselor, and the evening’s MC, told the
The play, a metaphorical story about an egg who looks for
friends and finally learns to accept himself before he can hatch, concluded to
wild applause and to giant smiles from the participants.
“I’m a famous
actor!” the mother hen, an ecstatic Noam Grenseig, said immediately following
the show, while graciously accepting accolades from adoring fans.
happy, it was so good for me,” Grenseig told The Jerusalem Post
. “When I am in a
play, I feel like I’m flying. I love this. I’m going to be famous all over the