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Focus on Self-Advocacy at the Residence of the US Ambassador to Israel

July 2016

Group photo of roundtable participants

On May 4, 2016, the Ambassador of the United States to Israel, Mr. Daniel Shapiro, and his wife, Ms. Julie Fisher, hosted a roundtable discussion to honor the work of Professor Michael Stein, Executive Director of the Harvard Law School Project on Disability programs.

For the past five years, Professor Stein has been consulting with Israel Elwyn (IE) and Beit Issie Shapiro, both of which provide support services to people with disabilities. Together, they established a community-based Self-Advocacy project across Israel to develop and support self-advocacy skills among people with intellectual disabilities. More recently, they created a national network of these organizations to advocate for policy change.

The twenty-five roundtable participants represented a variety of sectors -- self-advocates, the Government of Israel, academia, philanthropy, and civil society. This event provided an opportunity for participants to make connections and reinforced that citizens with disabilities have the right to full inclusion in society.

L-r:  US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro, Yechiel Cohen and Bracha Taub (self-advocates), Sarah Sadovnik, COO, Israel Elwyn

Two of the people seated at the table receive services from Israel Elwyn: Yechiel Cohen, as a resident of IE's Community Residential Services, and Bracha Taub, who is employed in the competitive job market with support services from an IE job coach. Yechiel told the other attendees that he's a member of the Self-Advocacy project's national group, works in Tel Aviv and has acted on the stage and in film. Bracha went into greater detail about the national self-advocacy group, including their activity at the Knesset (Israel's parliament) with regard to amendments to the guardianship law that have since become law. She also shared her experience in attempting to gain acceptance to an institute of higher learning: Bracha has been rejected – including bluntly over the telephone – upon relating that she graduated from the special education school system.

(rear l-r)  Jean Judes, Executive Director, Beit Issie Shapiro; Sarah Sadovnik, Chief Operations Officer, Israel Elwyn (front l-r)  Professor Michael Stein; US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro

Also present were Shosh Kaminsky (Director, Community Development Department and Knowledge Management, Beit Issie Shapiro) and Sarah Sadovnik (COO, Israel Elwyn), who were instrumental in establishing the Self-Advocacy program for people with intellectual disability in Israel and and who continue to manage it. They provided background on its establishment and goals, as well as the accomplishments to date by self-advocates at both the local and national level. At the national level, the self-advocates have participated in committee meetings at the Knesset (Israel's parliament) and had an influence on lawmakers deliberating changes to the guardianship law. Currently, they are preparing a position paper on the subject of Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Living Independently and Being Included in the Community.

The consensus of this special roundtable was that the self-advocacy program and movement should continue to develop and provide people with disabilities with a platform for making their voices heard and to strengthen cooperation between people with disabilities, nonprofits and government.

 

The Ruderman Family Foundation and the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles are partners in the Self-Advocacy project initiated by Beit Issie Shapiro and Israel Elwyn.
 






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Sincerely,
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David B. Marcu, Chief Executive Officer

IE's mission is to develop and provide a wide array of supports and tools for people with disabilities, while constantly striving for excellence of service and the creation of a just society. Together with people with disabilities and society at large, we shall continue working as an innovative and cutting-edge organization.

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