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  • Writer's pictureiKonnect

SHEKEL - שק"ל

How do you envision an organization that works with thousands of people with disabilities?

If you’re imagining a sad or slow-paced place – think again! It’s time to meet SHEKEL – Inclusion for People with Disabilities.

A young-spirited upbeat organization, brimming with life, action, and creativity, SHEKEL has one goal: the relocation of people with special needs and disabilities, from the margins of society to the heart of the community.

How does this all happen?

By opening doors of inclusion in all areas of Israeli society – and that begins at home! Believing that everyone has the right to live as ‘a part’ of society, as opposed to ‘apart’ from society, SHEKEL opened some 150 supported “living in the community” apartments. They allow hundreds of people with disabilities throughout the country to live in regular apartment buildings, surrounded by neighbors and friends, while creating strong ties with their local communities, and pursuing busy social lives and personal interests.

But life doesn’t stop at home and SHEKEL gives people with special needs the chance to take their rightful place as a vital part of the working world. Offering all types of work opportunities from supported work environments, such as SHEKEL’s sewing studio, candle-making factory, or assembly work, to employment in Israel’s private sector, including kindergartens, technical support, cafés, offices, and more, SHEKEL insists that every person with special needs be given an opportunity to utilize their skills and strengths in challenging meaningful work.

And here’s a first to blow your hat off: In a groundbreaking partnership with Israel’s hi-tech giant, Mobileye, SHEKEL developed a prototype program to integrate high-functioning people on the autism spectrum into Israel’s hi-tech business sector. Today, some 13 people on the spectrum are fully employed in hi-tech capacities at Mobileye!

At the other end of the scale, two unique farm-based day centers were created for people with profound autism who work with animals and agriculture, while connecting with the outside world through visitors to the farms and moshav and kibbutz members.

And what about children? The much-needed SHEKEL afterschool programs for children with disabilities include crucial medical support for children with severe multiple disabilities. This means that the children can attend school and enjoy daily learning experiences like all other children while going home to their loving families and communities at the end of the day, instead of growing up in hospitals or institutions.

A group of women from SHEKEL baking together

How it all began...

In 1992, Clara Feldman, the only child of two Auschwitz survivors, who made Aliya from Eastern Europe together with her parents as a young teenager, became CEO of SHEKEL, then a small organization that had been set up a decade earlier by the JDC. At the time, it served a couple of dozen people with disabilities and was on the verge of collapse. Feldman, then an economist working at the ministry of welfare, was asked to review its finances and make recommendations on how to close it down. But after studying the needs and struggling with the numbers Feldman recommended ways to keep it open. She was not, however, prepared for the next request: “Could you take it on as CEO?” Assured that this would be temporary, she agreed and the rest is history!

Today SHEKEL serves thousands of adults and children with disabilities throughout the country and is widely considered Israel’s leading organization for inclusion.

A young child part of SHEKEL in a motorized chair laughing

SHEKEL CEO, Clara Feldman, believes the cultural and social inclusion of people with disabilities is the heart of inclusion. That’s why SHEKEL goes out of its way to offer tens of enrichment courses, cultural activities, and social clubs.

Most recently, SHEKEL partnered with Israel’s prestigious Jerusalem Academy for Music and Dance to launch the groundbreaking “Israel Integrative Orchestra”, supported by the U.S. embassy’s Jerusalem American Center and assisted by Perach. With the first lockdown, the weekly rehearsals ceased but the music kept going! Instead of the Academy students and SHEKEL musicians rehearsing for a physical concert, they prepared a wonderful musical clip through zoom practices. While this was no easy feat, it proved invaluable in giving SHEKEL orchestra members a sense of purpose and connecting them to the outside world at a time when they were extremely vulnerable, cut off from their families, daily work, and social lives.

Watch the performance here!

Fun Fact about SHEKEL

While SHEKEL’s “Israel Center for Accessibility”, has made many of Israel’s towns, public transport systems, universities, and public services accessible to people with all types of disabilities, it has also been a world trailblazer. It recently planned and implemented accessibility of the Old City of Jerusalem – which attracted international attention as the oldest city in the world ever to be made accessible! And here’s another first: the Center recently finished a major project upgrading the accessibility of Israel’s Knesset, which has now become the most accessible Parliament in the world!

SHEKEL serves people with disabilities from all religious and ethnic backgrounds.

A young man from SHEKEL sitting at a table smiling

Contact information:

SHEKEL: +972-506-232155

Giftshop: +972-528-390554


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