'Revolution in Attitude Towards Special Children'

The first-ever conference of hareidi religious organizations that work with disabled children was held in Jerusalem.

Elad Benari & Yoni Kempinski ,

Kamocha conference
Kamocha conference
Israel news photo: Yoni Kempinski

The first ever conference of KaMocha, a body of religious and hareidi religious voluntary organizations that work with disabled children and young adults, was held in Jerusalem on Monday.

The first of its kind event included a representation of all the organizations and bodies who work with people with special needs. Some 2,000 volunteers, activists and their families attended a day of discussions, which were centered on improving the support for individuals with special needs in the hareidi-religious community.

The conference was also attended by the ministers of education, welfare and health.

One of the attendees of the conference was Rabbi Chaim Perkal, the founder & CEO of Alei Siach, an organization which aims to allow hareidi-religious adolescents with special needs to have a quality and independent life within the community.

Rabbi Perkal described the change in attitude among hareidim to individuals with special needs as “a revolution.”

“Twenty years ago they hid them, so G-d forbid they’re not seen, and today they’re out in the open everywhere,” he told Arutz Sheva. “You can see here thousands of people – workers, parents – they all come out for this conference.”

“When I needed a place for my daughter there were barely any places in this sector,” recalled Rabbi Perkal. “We started to look and there simply weren’t any. We decided, a few parents, to open something small and this small thing turned into an empire”.

Rabbi Mordechai Bloy, the Holiness and Education Watch Chairman, noted that hareidi-religious institutions for persons with disabilities are used even by people who are not religious.

Rabbi Bloy told Arutz Sheva that “30 percent of people with disabilities in Israel are treated in institutions that are owned and operated by hareidim, even though we’re only about 10 percent of the population. This is because Torah begins and ends with chesed (charity).”

“Treating a disabled child for us is a milestone,” he explained. “We bring any person who was created in G-d’s image to his maximum ability. The hareidi public has established institutions for a variety of disabilities, for a variety of ages. The professionals and the authorities praise all our institutions.”

He added that the institutions are only part of the process, noting that faith and belief are no less important.

“If someone has difficulties but has spirit, it will be a lot easier for him,” said Rabbi Bloy. “If someone has spiritual mental strength, he survives difficult health situations or any other situation. Certainly where there’s a disability. Let’s talk about the hareidi family, the way it wraps each disabled child. If there’s a disabled child in a hareidi family, everyone wraps him with love. Everyone understands that he needs to be given more than other children. Everyone has a task in helping the disabled child.”