IAJVS Awards Prestigious Prize to Israel Elwyn Partner: Israel Electric Corporation

An exciting ceremony took place on June 26 at Tel Aviv's historic Reading Power Station when the International Association of Jewish Vocational Services (IAJVS) Corporate Award was presented to the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) for their employment of people with disabilities.

Similar to Israel Elwyn (IE), IEC believes that a just society is committed to equal opportunity for all and that each person is entitled to be included in society, contributing according to his or her abilities and as an equal. As an organization whose byword is to be involved in and contribute to society, one of IEC's social action goals is to give people with disabilities the opportunity to join IEC's workforce.

Israel Elwyn, a member of the IAJVS, nominated IEC for the Corporate Award in recognition of its efforts to include people with disabilities in its workforce. In the last decade, IE nominated the Israeli Supreme Court and the Aroma Espresso Bar Israel chain, both of which received this recognition of their inclusion of people with disabilities. This year, IEC was chosen from a list of companies nominated by other member organizations of IAJVS from the USA, Canada and Israel.

The relationship between Israel Elwyn and the Israel Electric Corporation began about two years ago with a generous contribution from IEC's workers committee to activities for the benefit of the workers of IE's Haifa Occupational Training Center (OTC). The next step was the successful employment of five workers with disabilities, mostly physical and primarily with supports from IE. While IEC has in the past employed people with disabilities, under the current initiative the number has grown to 50 people with a wide range of disabilities and requiring supports from several placement service providers.

Participants in the June 26 ceremony included Mr. Moshe Cachlon, Minister of Communications and Minister of Social Affairs and Social Services; Dr. Shlomo Elyashar, Director – Rehabilitation Branch, Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services; IE senior management; senior officials from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services and from the Rehabilitation Department of the National Insurance Institute; and IEC senior management and employees, including IEC workers with disabilities.

Dr. Michal Wilf, Director – Employment Services in IE's Haifa & Northern Israel Branch, officiated. Among the speakers from the Israel Electric Corporation were Mr. Eliahu Glickman, President & CEO; Mr. Iftah Ron-Tal, Chairman of the Board; Mr. Eitzhak "Ika" Yakin, Senior Vice President – Human Resources Division; and Mr. Miko Tzarfati, Chairman of the Workers Committee. Mr. Cachlon congratulated IEC on opening its doors to people with disabilities as rank and file employees and spoke of the importance of including people with disabilities in society.

The day after the ceremony, Mr. Cachlon spoke with David Marcu, IE's CEO, to thank him and IE's employees for their professional and vital work on leading the field of supported employment for people with disabilities in Israel.

Mr. Vladi Gur-Arie spoke on behalf of IEC's employees with disabilities. A lawyer who uses a wheelchair, Mr. Gur-Arie said, "IEC saw us as a quality human resource that can contribute skills to the Corporation and be paid for our work." He noted that some employees without disabilities had difficulty in trusting his advice, while others were amazed to see the Israel Bar Association membership certificate hanging in his office. In his experience, a person with disabilities is generally regarded as needing help, not as an active, contributing individual. "This seems to be a natural reaction for those who, for the first time, see a person in a wheelchair providing professional services."

Mr. Gur-Arie continued, "Despite my being a lawyer, let me tell you that the road to a successful and genuine inclusion process is not inscribed in the law, but in the hearts of people like those I found in the Israel Electric Corporation, and for that I am grateful. I'd also like to thank the professional, dedicated and excellent people at Israel Elwyn, led by Dr. Wilf, who initiated the process of my placement at IEC and who perform their work with sensitivity, determination and understanding. I learned that at Israel Elwyn, a personal employment vision and vision for the future are not just a slogan! I would also like to thank the employees of the National Insurance Institute's Rehabilitation Department who supported me during the process and all the representatives of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services present here, who also played an important role in this important collaboration."

Ms. Shulamit Zigdon, a worker with disabilities who joined IEC with the assistance of Israel Elwyn's employment services, noted during a meeting about the film prepared for the ceremony that, "At my first meeting with IE, they spoke about a vision for the future and my personal employment vision. 'Aim for a goal that you have decided on for yourself… We won't do it for you, we will accompany you and be at your side all the way.' I wanted to join a large organization in a department related to communications, marketing, etc., and they spoke of stages, a process. It was a long and complex process…special adaptations were required, but I stuck with it and today I work in IEC's Marketing Department and am learning the work… I had two dreams when I came to Beit Kassler (a supported living program): to learn to drive and to work in the community. I've achieved both and soon will have my own car. I am grateful to the many people and organizations that have helped me get to where I am today: Israel Elwyn, which found my place of work and has been at my side the whole way, throughout the complex processes; the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services and their leader, Minister Cachlon; to Beit Kassler, who helped with the special lift I needed, the adaptations and support services; and of course the Israel Electric Corporation, which made all this possible and invested efforts and resources in accessibility and adaptations so that I could truly be included. I call upon other organizations to open their doors and hearts to this important goal – equal rights."

Netanel Elchananov, who was injured in a terrorist attack and also works at IEC with supports from Israel Elwyn's employment services, said that he finally feels that he is working at an established job, at a place that suits him. He was welcomed to IEC and loves his work and the people around him.

The contributions of three other organizations should be noted: the Rehabilitation Department of the National Insurance Institute, the various disability-related departments of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services, and Beit Kassler, which together worked with Israel Elwyn for the successful inclusion of workers with disabilities in the workplace.

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