THIENSVILLE — The Jewish National Fund believes that “every citizen of Israel, everyone, has the right to live with dignity,” said Yossi Kahana, a native-born Israeli.
That includes those with disabilities.
Kahana, the director of the Jewish National Fund task force on disabilities, spoke to about 165 local supporters of the Jewish National Fund on Thursday, Aug. 25, at the Wisconsin Annual Tribute Banquet. The banquet, held at The Watermark at Shully’s, 146 Green Bay Road, raised money for those with disabilities and other needs.
Supporters, in fact, are quick to point out that the Jewish National Fund today is much more than its historic reputation for planting trees in Israel.
“I believe in the mission of JNF,” said Andy B. Stein, a Mequon native and incoming co-chair of JNFuture in Chicago. He spoke to attendees, making the points that JNF is working in Israel to build parks and recreational areas, developing a “world-class” education research center and supporting growing water technologies.
“This is our wish, to include all Israelis, including those with mental and physical disabilities,” said Kahana, delivering the guest speech for the event. “Those men, women and children represent more than 10 percent of Israeli society.”
He said he has seen how JNF is changing the lives of Israelis with disabilities. He talked of JNF support for the ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran Rehabilitation Village in southern Israel, helping “not only Jewish people,” he said. “All people, not only Jewish, are belonging.”
The village is a 25-acre facility, designed specifically for the needs of people with cognitive and physical impairments. It seeks to empower residents and outpatients to develop a greater degree of independence and become productive members of Israeli society, providing them with a variety of treatments including hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, shiatsu, music therapy, animal therapy and craft workshops, according to JNF and ALEH.
Kahana noted that those with disabilities can feel left out if they don’t serve in the Israel Defense Forces. It’s a part of the culture, with prospective employers typically asking about prior service. Kahana discussed JNF-supported efforts that help those with disabilities serve.
The master of ceremonies was Scott Steele, with other key participants including Rusti Moffic and Enid Bootzin-Berkovits, co-presidents of the Wisconsin board for Jewish National Fund; Sue Carneol, Tribute Banquet chair; and honorees Eileen and Dr. Glenn Graves, Aura Hirschman, Jody and Dr. David Margolis, and Molly Zall, a next generation leader.
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JNF for young professionals
Wisconsin residents interested in learning more about JNFuture are encouraged to contact Hannah Feldman, campaign executive for JNFuture Midwest, at Hannah.Feldman@Jnf.org. The young professionals’ arm of JNF is not so much viewed as a major present-day fundraising draw but more as an effort to engage the next generation, to create community and to give JNF a possible base of support for the future, said Andy B. Stein, incoming co-chair of JNFuture in Chicago.