Lawyer Launches $6 Million Effort to Support Israelis With Special Needs

Former lawyer and lobbyist Jay Ruderman has launched a three-year public-private partnership to help people with special needs in Israel, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Funded with $2 million each from the Ruderman Family Foundation, the New York City-based American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and the Israeli government, the Israel Unlimited partnership will create programs aimed at integrating people with disabilities into Israeli society, including support and networking groups, centers for independent living run by and serving people with special needs, job training and placement services, and programs that show business owners how to make small changes to accommodate disabled employees.

Before Ruderman organized the partnership, the Joint Distribution Committee had conducted research on the nearly 700,000 people with special needs in Israel but lacked the funds needed to launch a formal program and secure the partnership of the Israeli government. If the initiative is successful, the government could adopt the programs permanently and expand them across the country, said Joint Distribution Committee CEO Steve Schwager.

"I want people with disabilities to be more integrated into society and to find a level of independence that is comfortable for them," said Ruderman, who moved to Israel in 2005. "Our foundation is working to make this a more significant issue as it affects the lives of more and more people....We're trying to lead a movement. The Jewish community is worried about Jewish continuity, but how will you have that if you leave out 20 percent of the population, who are people with disabilities?"

Shelly Banjo. "Lawyer Launches Special-Needs Partnership in Israel." Wall Street Journal 09/04/2010.