Israeli non-profit organization Shalva announced Sunday the launch of a partnership with the Russian Jewish Congress to develop programs for children with disabilities in Russia, in areas which they say are lacking in infrastructure. A Memorandum of Cooperation was officially signed during an event held at the Metropol Hotel in Moscow ahead of Rosh Hashana, in the presence of some 500 leaders of the Russian Jewish community as well as Israeli guests of honor including Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Israeli Olympic medalist Ori Sasson. The event, a gala dinner, was hosted by international businessman and philanthropist Mikhail Fridman.The Shalva organization has been operating out of Jerusalem for over 28 years, and provides a variety of therapeutic, educational, recreational, sport and wellness services, as well as family support to 2,000 children with disabilities and their families."Ever since its establishment, Shalva has been developing new programs and providing guidance to other organizations around the world to advance their own disability services," said Kalman Samuels, Founder and President of Shalva. "We see it as our obligation not only to help the children and families in our direct care, but also to make a difference in the way the world understands, cares for, and embraces disability. It has been an honor to work with the Russian Jewish Congress to advance this mission." The Russian Jewish Congress's work includes efforts to better disability services in the country’s large cities; it collaborates with both Jewish and non-Jewish charitable funds to improve the qualifications of disability care providers. According to senior executives of the Congress, Russia’s infrastructure for providing disability services is sorely lacking, especially in the areas of early intervention and family support, despite the presence of disability care in public policy.The congress currently serves 600 children with disabilities and with its new partnership with Shalva, seeks to develop and expand its scope of services across the country."Shalva’s pioneering program development and disability research has effectively changed the standards of disability care in Israel, and serves as a model to other countries, like Russia, in spearheading similar advancements within their own cultures and social services systems,” said Yan Piskunov, chief of the Russian Jewish Congress’s Board of Trustees and an active member of Shalva’s board. “Shalva is making Israel a world leader in the field of special needs, and for me, it is very meaningful to see these global movements stemming from the holy city of Jerusalem.” The partnership is the fruit of a number of site visits by leading Russian disability professionals who have traveled to the Shalva National Center in Jerusalem to learn various therapy models and program methodologies. The relationship will continue with the guided implementation of these programs in Russia's disability care institutions for years to come.