Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Another Twelve Tribes success!

It's good to be able to report on another successful Australian Friends of Keren Malki Twelve Tribes Kiddush - the third year running - this past weekend in Caulfield Synagogue Hall, Melbourne, Australia.

A crowd of more than two hundred packed the venue - people of all ages and from a variety of denominations, coming together to share good food and fine beverages with friends - all while supporting families of children with disabilities in Israel. 

Attendees at the well-run and lively event were treated to twelve gourmet herring-based dishes, all kosher and each one paired with a different kind of whisky. Who knew there were so many possibilities?! 

Debbie Fishman, who is normally based in Jerusalem where she directs the Malki Foundation's global operations, was present (in the course of a family visit to Melbourne) and addressed the crowd. She spoke of how the Malki Foundation works to fill a great gap in the services available in Israel to children with disabilities and to the families who care for them. She emphasized the importance of the Australian community's support in helping the Malki Foundation achieve its mission. Debbie gave thanks for the hard work of the organizing team whose voluntary efforts along with some hard work and the support of the many sponsors enabled the event to happen again, and again to be a success of which we are all proud.

The special appreciation of the Malki Foundation is extended to Ron and Sarah Tatarka of Scott Winton Insurance Brokers who were this year's Twelve Tribes Patrons. 

Also to booklet designer Doodie Bankier and printer Charles Leski whose great work provided the means to express gratitude in physical form to the sponsors and supporters. 

Last but not least, our extremely gratitude to the dedicated and hard-working committee members (alphabetically): Leon Burman, Chaim Gelber, Helen Gelber, Ralph Greenberger and Jacob Weinmann

Thank you to everyone – attendees and organizers alike – for coming together in true Twelve Tribes fashion to give children with disabilities in Israel the chance to receive the care they deserve.

And for the curious, a list of the delectables:

Herring
Whisky
Schmaltz
Ballantines 17 year old
Sriracha
Glengoyne 9 year old by Provenance
Wasabi
Bowmore Small Batch Bourbon Cask
Chili and Garlic
Glenlivet Nadurra 16 year old
Tomato and Basil
Laddie Classic
Roasted Capsicum
Glenmorangie The Original
Chimichurri
Glenfiddich 14 year old Rich Oak
Fennel and Mustard Seed
BenRiach 10 year old
Sweet & Sour
Deanston 12 year old
Mediterranean Olive
The Balvenie 14 year old Caribbean Cask
Salmon Gravlax
Jura 10 year old

Monday, July 17, 2017

Calling all Twelve Tribes: If you're in Melbourne this weekend...

For the third year running, the Australian Friends of the Malki Foundation are having a memorable public gathering under the meaningful title "Twelve Tribes Kiddush". All the details are in the poster below.

The key things to know:
  • To take part in what have been popular and successful events in 2016 and 2015, you need to book and pay in advance. 
  • Venue: Caulfield Hebrew Congregation, 572 Inkerman Road Caulfield
  • Bookings at Trybooking,com
  • The cost is modest and great value for the very fine fare being provided but in any event...
  • All the proceeds go to support the really fine work done in Israel with families from all parts of Israel's multi-hued spectrum who care for a child with extreme special-needs.
Click to enlarge the poster
Look forward to seeing you and all the Twelve Tribes!

And for some background, some notes on the previous years' Twelve Tribes Kiddush:

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Tel Aviv gathering helps us get out the word

Partial view of attendees and the snacks
In Tel Aviv earlier this month, a Malki Foundation event in a professional office with one of the Big Orange's most spectacular views provided a great opportunity to share an intimate update on the work we do to benefit Israeli families and their children with special needs.

The Asserson Law Offices in Tel Aviv's Azrieli Center provided the setting for a fascinating gathering with His Excellency, Ambassador Daniel Taub, until recently Israel's chief diplomatic representative in the United Kingdom.

Though the breathtaking late afternoon vista, looking out onto Tel Aviv's high rise skyline and the glittering Mediterranean just beyond it, was a major distraction, Mr Taub's talk kept the invitation-only crowd entranced.

A gifted and charming presenter, Mr Taub did real justice to the intriguing subject line: "Behind the Scenes at the Court of St James: An Outsider's Inside View".

He spoke of how representing Israel at the highest levels of British society, politics and public life provided him with unique opportunities and challenges. He shared some of the ways in which he was able to put emphasis on cross-cultural and interfaith aspects, including teaching Bible and Hebrew study classes in Westminster Abbey and at the Church of England Synod and jointly hosting a Hanukah party with Greece's ambassador to London!

The difficulties and the delicacies of being under great scrutiny as Israel’s representative to the UK made for a captivating talk.

His very well-received presentation was followed by some brief words from Arnold Roth, The Malki Foundation’s co-founder and Honorary Chair, who shared some of the experience of being a parent of a child with severe disabilities and the ways in which Israeli society rises - and often fails to rise - to the challenge. He surveyed some of the ways in which the limitations and shortcomings of health and welfare systems in providing support for children with disabilities can be the source of significant hurdles for such families in every part of Israeli society.

The Malki Foundation plays an increasingly valuable role in helping to address those challenges. Arnold highlighted the way our work has recently been helped via a significant grant from an Israeli government office - the first of more to come, we hope.

Jennifer Shaw Racz of the Malki Foundation's Development Desk
responds to the ambassador's speech.
He also spoke about Malki Chana z”l, his daughter whom he referred to as a special soul who brought light and kindness to the world. The Malki Foundation carries out its important work as a living memorial to Malki's life.

This is a good opportunity to express a public "thank you" for their invaluable contribution to Ambassador Daniel Taub whose presence - despite a forbiddingly busy schedule - graced the event; to Trevor Asserson, Lisa Green, and Nicola Field for their hospitality at Asserson Law; and to the new and veteran Malki Foundation supporters who attended as members of the audience.

To find out about upcoming events at the Malki Foundation, please email us [office (a) kerenmalki.org] so we can add you to our list.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Therapies for children with special needs: What the Ombudsman found

Lining up to get attention at a Kupat Holim clinic in a periphery town few years ago
[Image Source: Wikipedia]
Failures and shortcomings of government are the most significant factors behind the bitter reality that children with disabilities in Israel do not get the care they need.

A startling report issued a short time ago by the State Comptroller (Ombudsman) on paramedical therapies for children with special needs in Israel articulates a depressingly long list of obstacles, deficiencies and outright failures. This is alarming given that the international Convention on the Rights of the Child (to which Israel is a signatory) requires the State of Israel to grant each child, and those responsible for his/her care, the appropriate assistance as required by his/her personal and specific situation.

Among the report's troubling findings:
  • Lengthy delays: The State Comptroller's investigators reported waiting times of a year and more in order for a child to receive therapies. Waiting times of many months are experienced by families seeking to get an evaluation. The reality of lengthy waiting times is often devastating to the development of a young child with special needs.
  • Chaos: The investigators found an overwhelming number of separate service providers including health maintenance organizations (HMOs - called Kupot Holim in Hebrew), the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, hospitals, local government authorities as well as a range of NGOs - non-profit organisations with a striking lack, meaning absence, of any entity to provide coordination and/or oversight. Each of these service providers operates in accordance with its own home-made rules and procedures. The predictable result is incoherence in relation to criteria for eligibility to receive treatments, and unjustified rejection of reasonable requests for therapies in circumstances where the child may (or might not) have received service from one or another of the other service providers. 
  • An example of the chaos: Children in day care centers are frequently told by the family's HMO/Kupa that their request for therapy is rejected on the grounds that the children received them at the day care center.  (This as a matter of fact is often untrue - day care centers are often ill-equipped to provide the services which the Kupa claims they delivered.) Moreover no one (for instance, not the Ministry of Health) supervises to ensure that the child does in fact receive therapies. Or ensures that the therapies meet any relevant standards. The result, far too often, is children simply miss out on essential therapies or - as the report concludes - suffer developmental harm by getting therapies that fail to match up with their personal and specific needs.
  • More chaos: The Kupot too often flatly refuse to authorize (i.e. pay for) therapies for children who are enrolled in the Special Education frameworks. This includes refusing to authorize therapies that are listed in the Ministry of Health's "Basket of Services" that the Kupot are obliged by law and contract to provide. And that in many cases they claim to provide even though in reality they do not.
  • Adding to the hardship, the Kupot exhibit a strong preference to refer children with special needs to the in-house child development centers operated under the Kupa's own auspices. They do this instead of approving treatments in hospitals or other centers which may be more convenient or more suitable for the child and the child's family.
  • Six child development centers have been shut down by the Kupot since 2009, most of them in periphery communities. The decision to close them is made with no regard for the enormous negative impact this has on access to services.
  • Though the law specifies that, to the extent possible, children with what are termed complicated development issues should receive all their treatment under a single roof for obvious reasons relating to the burden on the family. In reality, the Kupot frequently require the families to attend multiple centers and clinics in order to receive the treatments to which the child is entitled.
  • Breaching the law: As a result of these serious failures of performance and of policy, children with special needs are frequently not getting the therapies to which they are entitled under the law and which are essential to their well-being and development. 
  • Misallocation of funds: The Ministry of Health does not allocate a budget for therapy hours in special education day-care centers to the local authorities. So the local authorities in turn don't allocate a therapies-specific budget to those special ed day-care centers. The result is that portion of the overall budget allocated from the local authority to the centers which is supposed in some general way to be applied to therapies for special-needs children ends up being channeled to other uses such as teaching hours. So what happens to the needs of the children who were supposed to receive funded care? A good question. You can probably guess the answer.
  • No supervision: The report cites a complete failure of supervision among service providers. The result is that it is unknown whether therapies are given, and if they are, to what standard.
  • Inadequate staffing levels: The report refers to a general shortage of professional staff throughout the country and especially in Israel's south, and makes clear that no remedial plan for future improvements exists.
From the report (we translated the text to English)
Here at the Malki Foundation, we are only too well aware of the deficiencies in the system. In fact, our work was designed from day one to deal with them and to provide bypass-road solutions to the families who are the system's principal victims.

It's gratifying to see a government figure investigate them, report on them and place them in the public space for reasoned discussion and - dare we hope? - early remediation.

We raise money from supporters to fund the therapies that children with disabilities are entitled to by law but are not receiving because of the shortcomings described by the Ombudsman. We do it with great care, and with checks and balances that we can describe another time. Now in our 17th year of operation, we can say with confidence the approach we adopted works. In fact, the families who benefit have told us it works really well.

We sincerely hope this report will shine a bright light on the problem and spur the agencies involved to significantly improve the way they provide services. Only then will children with disabilities in Israel be able to reach their potential and have the quality of life they and their families deserve.

In the meantime, please consider partnering with the Malki Foundation and join with us in enabling children with disabilities to receive life-enhancing therapies.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Look for Hadar. She's here.


Can you find Hadar?

Hadar is a 17 year old young woman with cognitive and physical disabilities. She lives with her family in one of Jerusalem's south-eastern neighborhoods.

Like many children you know, she attends school, visits the shops with her friends, goes to synagogue on Shabbat and holidays and also goes to Bnei Akiva youth movement meetings on Tuesday and Saturday afternoons.

A few weeks ago, her local Bnei Akiva branch was honored with a visit by Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem. He was there to attend the inauguration of their new building.

If you look very carefully at the photo, you can see Hadar sitting in her wheelchair in among all the other children.

Like them, she is a child who enjoys being among her friends and in the community. So far as the people around her are concerned, Hadar is part of the group.

This is what inclusion is all about.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Aligning our activities with some genuine social-action pioneers

JAFCO's home page
It's been a pleasure for the Malki Foundation to partner recently with Israel Children’s Aid Network (ICAN) and to work together with its fine people to help children in Israel with severe special needs (and their families) have access to a better life. 

ICAN is a remarkable organization. Its founders, Ron and Deni Simon, are American child welfare pioneers and respected serial social-change activists. 

Ron founded the extraordinary Jewish Adoption and Foster Care Options, also known as JAFCO, a pioneering force in the child welfare and foster care field. Its JAFCO Children’s Village, located on a five-acre site in Sunrise, Florida, provides much-needed services for some 350 abused and neglected children. It's been described as the model for future state-run foster care programs nationwide and
provides a full continuum of high-quality services including foster care, adoption, family preservation, mentoring, independent living and developmental disability programs. The JAFCO Children’s Village, consisting of an Emergency Shelter and Six Group Homes, is one of the most unique and innovative programs in the nation. The JAFCO Children’s Ability Center supports families raising children with developmental disabilities by providing family enrichment, resources, and respite care all within one state-of-the-art center. JAFCO recently became officially licensed as a Foster Care and Adoption Agency in PA... Our vision is to provide a privately funded model child welfare program which can be replicated by other communities around the country including a continuum of high
-quality family preservation, foster care, adoption, emergency shelter, group home, independent living, and mentoring services to at-risk and special needs children and
families in the community and support, treatment and respite care for families raising children with developmental disabilities. This model would work in partnership with the
state and in collaboration with other local agencies... [JAFCO website]
Their newest social "start-up", ICAN provides material support for a range of Israeli organizations that address child-focused needs. They include hunger and malnutrition, child abuse, housing, inadequate medical care, lack of educational opportunities and the chronic lack of services for children with disabilities. 

But part of their mission at ICAN, no less than the funding aspect, is in the raising of awareness among Americans about the state of children’s welfare in Israel. That's something we can appreciate and very much respect.

Deni and Ron Simon are hosted at Malki Foundation
office in Jerusalem by Debbie Fishman (Exec Dir) and Arnold Roth (Chair)
In a meeting at our office in Jerusalem this week, Ron referred to a belief among many American Jews that Israeli children with special needs get everything they could want via the Israeli government. That's of course a rosey view of reality and can lead to serious misunderstanding. The work of the Malki Foundation and many other similar-minded not-for-profits testifies to the broad scale of what is unfortunately not being adequately addressed.

We found a striking Ron quote elsewhere on the Web, and want to convey his words here:
The care of abused and neglected children is not charity; it is our responsibility to care for these children as a Jewish parent cares for their own children – with joy and pride. [Ron Simon]
Anyone surprised to know that at the Malki Foundation, we feel truly honored to have become part of the ICAN world? 

We look forward to an ongoing close collaboration with the Simons and their colleagues to help deliver services and support for children with disabilities and those who love them.