"JUF has changed the life of my adult son, and I am grateful to the Chicago community." These are the words of Miri, whose 30-year old son lives with mental disability.
I was privileged to represent JUF at the graduation ceremony of a program called Re-Start, helping adults with mental disabilities join the work force. Through JUF's Breakthrough Fund, Chicago's Jewish community provided the needed support for this transformative program run by Enosh, the Israeli Mental Health Association, a well-known and respected non-profit.
At the Re-Start graduation, I had the privilege of meeting 10 graduates who now have the additional tools and enhanced self-confidence to secure gainful employment and greater independence. For each one of them and for their proud family members who attended the modest ceremony, this program offers life-changing possibilities. For JUF, it was one more opportunity for our donors' generosity to do good for those who need it most here in Israel.
Enosh is unique because it supports people with psychiatric disabilities as well as their family members. It is supportive family members who carry the unrelenting responsibility and yet are too-often an over-looked piece in the multi-dimensional service formula. Respite care is essential for the family.
Enosh, with more than 60 service centers, has been leading cutting-edge rehabilitation programs all over the country for the past four decades. Their personalized approach ensures that individuals receive customized, comprehensive support. One size does not fit all. The goal is to enable all people with mental illness to have every possible opportunity as anyone else to pursue meaningful, independent lives.
The organization's work is carried out by some 700 professionals and hundreds of volunteers. Together they provide services ranging from employment assistance to social skills and from family counseling to home economics. Each individual supported by Enosh leads his or her own recovery plan, with emphasis on helping individuals integrate as easily as possible into the larger community. Enosh, recognizing the centrality of the family to both providing the day-to-day safety net and realizing the plan's success, works hand in hand with the family throughout the program. Thanks to these programs, participants gain a greater self-esteem, self-reliance, sense of security, and a feeling of belonging.
The innovative and intensive Re-Start program meets with participants as a group as well as individually five days a week for four months, helping them pave their way towards gainful employment. The course teaches the cognitive skills required in the labor market as well as how to manage one's budget. It helps participants research the employment market, identify their relevant strengths, and map out their career prospects. The program teaches computer skills-a tool that is becoming a requirement in almost every field of work. Participants also learn how to interview for a job and work on their interpersonal skills.
Enosh also runs the Mind & Fitness program in JUF's Partnership Together region of Kiryat Gat, Lachish and Shafir. The program, which JUF has supported since 2017, offers a new holistic rehabilitative approach to promoting a healthy lifestyle among people with mental health disabilities, focused on physical activity, healthy living education, and mindfulness exercises.
Finally, as the leading and largest organization in Israel providing mental health rehabilitation services, Enosh also runs an educational effort to increase Israeli society's awareness of the needs of people with mental health issues and to enact legislation in the Knesset to bring about the desired public and private results. While Israel is certainly advanced in its treatment of people with challenges, there are still many areas in which legislation is required. Enosh is promoting that effort, working with all political parties and educating lawmakers about the need for our society to be as inclusive as possible. JUF is a proud supporter of this effort in our Partnership region and throughout the country.
In the words of Miri, the proud mother of an adult with mental disability, "if it weren't for the Jewish community of Chicago, my son would never have even contemplated seeking a job."
Ofer Bavly is the director general of the JUF Israel Office.