The power of determination

Honoring Naomi Stuchiner, Beit Issie Shapiro’s founding president.

At the 2014 Humanitarian Award event, Ori Schreiber quipped, ‘You can take a man out of Beit Issie, but you can’t take Beit Issie out of a man.’ (photo credit: GULER UGUR PHOTOGRAPHY)
At the 2014 Humanitarian Award event, Ori Schreiber quipped, ‘You can take a man out of Beit Issie, but you can’t take Beit Issie out of a man.’
‘Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal” is the slogan on a sign that greets you when entering the office of Naomi Stuchiner at Beit Issie Shapiro in Ra’anana, and it aptly describes the determination and indomitable spirit that has inspired her career. Stuchiner, who is the founding president of Beit Issie Shapiro, was recently honored at two gala events in the US to celebrate her life achievements. At the first event, Stuchiner was presented with the 2014 Humanitarian Award by the American Friends of Beit Issie Shapiro.
The accolades of praise that were bestowed on this remarkable woman were well-deserved, as her vision and trailblazing efforts have shaped the field of treating disabilities throughout Israel and paved the way for Beit Issie Shapiro to grow from a grassroots organization into a worldwide leader in this field.
WHEN STUCHINER’S father, Issie Shapiro, died suddenly and prematurely in 1980 before fulfilling his dream of contributing to the lives of people with special needs in Israel, the Shapiro family determined to carry out his inspiring mission. As an experienced community worker, Stuchiner took the lead. With her at the helm, Beit Issie Shapiro has arguably become the leading organization in the field of disabilities treatment in Israel, developing and providing cutting-edge services to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities and their families, and effecting social change by breaking down the barriers preventing people with disabilities from full integration into society.
Located in Ra’anana, this now-famous organization, which impacts more than 30,000 children and adults every year, is a great source of pride to the city, and many of its inclusive activities are deeply imprinted in the city’s DNA. When visiting Beit Issie Shapiro, which is today a model of excellence, one sometimes forgets the challenging road that was traveled in order to achieve its astonishing milestones. Over time and under Stuchiner’s leadership, the organization’s mode of operation expanded on many levels. From initially developing and providing practical solutions for children with special needs, BIS began to play a leading role in tangibly changing attitudes in the community as well as advocating for better legislation, and ultimately sharing knowledge through research and training, not only on a national level but on the global stage.
In 2012, BIS was granted “special consultative status” by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, becoming one of only a few Israeli organizations with this recognition, and placing BIS on the global map as one of the top organizations in the field of disabilities treatment worldwide.
Stuchiner’s vision and unwavering determination have undoubtedly been the driving force that has inspired both her and her dedicated professional team to blaze new trails and to move mountains. Stuchiner’s instinctive out-of-the-box strategy of problem-solving and making changes was self-formulated, for there was no existing blueprint to follow. Today, she is widely recognized as an expert in social entrepreneurship and resource development. Her book, From Darkness the Dawn, co-written with Israel Sykes and Sharon Bacher, chronicles “how Beit Issie Shapiro changed the world of disabilities in Israel.” It is a fascinating volume that provides an insight and information for the next generation of social entrepreneurs in Israel and abroad. In it, Dan Senor, co-author of Start-Up Nation, comments that “Beit Issie Shapiro is an example of what Israel has to teach us – this is a model for the world.”
Equally comfortable in the company of presidents, celebrities, corporate moguls and mere mortals, Stuchiner’s charismatic personality and delightful sense of humor at once put you at ease and make you feel that she is “one of us.” It seems that the combination of the deep and sincere values of kindness that she inherited from her exceptional family, and her human touch coupled with her steely resolve to achieve her goals, are the proven formula of her success.
The 2014 Humanitarian Award event celebrated the unique and innovative contributions of Beit Issie Shapiro to the children it serves directly throughout Israel, and indirectly around the world. The event specifically honored Eileen and Jerry Lieberman, who through their support and commitment to BIS have helped to improve the quality of lives of thousands of children in Israel and throughout the world.
Beit Issie Shapiro executive director Jean Judes, who represented the organization at the UN, said that “our role as special consultant on disabilities to the UN Social and Economic Council puts us on the global map as one of the top organizations in the field of disabilities worldwide, and means that we represent the best of what Israel has to offer to the world.”
There were many heartwarming tributes and testimonials that night, such as the one given by Ori Schreiber.
Born in Israel 25 years ago, Schreiber has cerebral palsy as a result of premature birth. He attended Beit Issie Shapiro’s Early Intervention Center from the age of one to four.
From the age of seven, encouraged by his determined parents, he was integrated into the regular school system and continued to receive treatments at Beit Issie Shapiro throughout his childhood and adolescence. From an early age, Schreiber made it clear that no obstacles would come between him and achieving his goals – he and Stuchiner seem to share this character trait. He has sung on stage with famous cantors, performed in the Knesset and appeared on TV, all for Beit Issie Shapiro.
After high school, Schreiber attended a hesder yeshiva headed by Rabbi Shai Piron, currently education minister, and proudly served as a volunteer in the Israel Defense Forces. He recently lived in a youth village in the South, and volunteered promoting inclusion for an organization called “Feel Accessibility.” He is a devoted advocate of BIS and remains in close contact with the organization and Stuchiner to this day. During his speech Schreiber quipped, “You can take a man out of Beit Issie, but you can’t take Beit Issie out of a man!” The undaunted path that Schreiber has traveled and his astonishing achievements have provided inspiration and hope to many, and he is the embodiment of the key values that BIS stands for. Both he and Beit Issie Shapiro have consistently moved beyond what was imagined possible, and the story is not yet over.
As the gala evening drew to a close, it became clear that the event did not only celebrate the triumphs of those daring to dream, but also those who have helped to make those dreams come true.
About Beit Issie Shapiro:
BEIT ISSIE Shapiro is a pioneer organization whose innovative therapies are used as models throughout Israel and worldwide.
• In 2011 it was named by the efficiency monitor Midot as Israel’s most efficient nonprofit organization.
• Early intervention centers have been established in 82 locations, with treatments provided by the government based upon Beit Issie Shapiro’s model.
• It is the global leader of research into Snoezelen (controlled multisensory environment) therapy to treat people with developmental disabilities, Alzheimer’s, cancer and post-traumatic stress syndrome. BIS has helped to establish over 400 Snoezelen therapy centers in Israel.
• It operates the largest hydrotherapy training center in the world, and has helped to establish 120 hydrotherapy centers in Israel.
• It established Israel’s first accessible and inclusive playground, Park Chaverim, and has assisted 30 local authorities and several countries to establish similar play areas.
• It provides training for 3,000 students and service providers each year and has established a “Special University,” offering higher educational opportunities every year for up to 200 adults with severe learning and adjustment disabilities.
• For more than 30 years, five generations of the extended families of Issie and Lucie Shapiro continue their support for the organization. Today, the family network extends from Israel to the US, Canada, the UK and South Africa, and has played a major role in developing an overseas funding and friendship base for the organization.