It is not only an obligation, but also a great joy, to enable every person to take part and be part of his or her community. The Leo Baeck Education Center and The Leo Baeck Community Centers are therefore fully inclusive of individuals of all ages with physical and/or mental challenges.
We dedicate a significant portion of our internal organizational resources to ensure that our programming and facilities are open to the entire community – from specially trained staff and volunteers, adaptations of our facilities to accommodate individuals with disabilities, to dedicated space that provides therapeutic support for those who need it (e.g., therapeutic greenhouse for students on the autism spectrum, hydrotherapy pool that serves 80 children and adults with severe physical disabilities, etc.).
In addition to individualized support in our general programming, we conduct a variety of special needs programs that focus on the needs of individuals with specific disabilities:
Inclusion of youth on the autism spectrum – Leo Baeck is the only institution in Northern Israel that integrates students on the autism spectrum into its mainstream education system at the Middle School and Senior High School levels. We currently serve 80 students on the spectrum, ranging from 13 to 21 years of age. We have 25 special education teachers, 30 educational facilitators and 6 specialist therapists who enable these students to be an integral part of eleven mainstream classes at Leo Baeck’s Middle School and Senior High School, and to receive the additional support they need to thrive. This support focuses on helping them develop personal skills (Life Skills Training Apartment) and career skills (Vocational Workshop, Computer Training, Therapeutic Agricultural Greenhouse). Following graduation, the vast majority of these students obtain gainful employment (some at Leo Baeck, an equal opportunity employer) and go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.
The Ogen program – Over 200 students in our Middle School have either some kind of learning disability and/or Attention Deficit Disorder. These students receive individualized support and all teachers in the school receive specialized training on how best to work with them to ensure that they are learning by whatever method that works best for them.
Inclusion of children with physical disabilities – Our schools have a few students with physical disabilities, who are provided whatever support they need to fully participate in our programming. One of these students was seriously injured (and his father was killed) in the 2003 Maxim Restaurant suicide bombing.
Special Bar/Bat Mitzvah program – Leo Baeck’s Ohel Avraham Synagogue is one of the only congregations in Israel that serves (and has a scholarship program for) children with special needs. In the past few years, Ohel Avraham has supported at least a dozen Bnei Mitzvah who would have been rejected from most other congregations in Israel. This program ensures that all young people have the opportunity to celebrate this important lifecycle event, regardless of their physical, cognitive, emotional or financial limitations.
The Laron program – Leo Baeck has a dedicated staff person (a social worker) who ensures that any individual ages 18-65 with physical, sensory or mental disabilities, or chronical illness, is provided whatever support they need to participate fully in recreational activities at the Leo Baeck Community Center.
The Re’im program – Individuals with severe developmental and/or social challenges who function better in specialized settings are frequently invited as a group to participate in Leo Baeck community events. 50 individuals with special needs attend the Re’im program which is divided into four age-appropriate groups (13-16, 17-19, 19-28 and 28-45). One of the goals of this program is to ensure that participants are fully welcomed at Leo Baeck. Re’im participants who wish to participate individually in Leo Baeck activities receive full support through the Laron program (see above).
The Amitim program – The Amitim program currently serves 45 individuals ages 18-65 who have a 40% or greater mental disability. This program helps participants better acclimate into mainstream recreational programs and integrate to the greatest extent possible into their community. A main goal of the program is to increase awareness and tolerance in the general population for individuals with mental and emotional challenges. [read more]
The Ta’asuka program – Leo Baeck includes one of Israel’s premier community centers and is a national model for many new Israeli Community Centers programs. We are currently planning to expand our services to offer job placement, volunteer placement services, and general employment guidance and support to individuals over the age of 20 with developmental disabilities or mental health issues. In the meantime, positions are frequently provided at Leo Baeck facilities.
The constant presence of individuals with special needs in our school, synagogue and community center programming increases public awareness and acceptance of people with disabilities in our community. We are proud of the inclusive environment of our institution and have made inclusion one of our organization’s top priorities.