(JTA) – In a move designed to address the growing plight of disabled Jewish children in Russia, their community paired up with an Israel-based world-leader in treating their problems.
The Sept. 14 signing of a cooperation agreement between Shalva, an Israeli organization with over 25 years of experience in treating children with disabilities, and the Russian Jewish Congress followed the 2015 discontinuation of services for hundreds of thousands of disabled persons in Russia in the framework of a health reform that critics say is cruel.
The Russian Jewish Congress already has special programs in place for approximately 600 Russian children with disabilities, many of them from the Jewish community, the two groups said in a statement about their cooperation.
“Shalva is making Israel a world leader in the field of special needs, and for me it is very meaningful to see this global movement stemming from the holy city of Jerusalem,” said Jan Piskunov, a member of the executive board of the Russian Jewish Congress.
Following the overhaul of Russia’s public health services, about half a million patients are denied disability benefits under new measures that critics say are hurting the country’s most vulnerable citizens.
The number of Russians formally recognized as disabled dropped from nearly 13 million in early 2014 to 12.45 million in September 2015.
According to senior executives of the Russian Jewish Congress, Russia’s infrastructure for providing disability services is “sorely lacking” even for those entitled to receive benefits, especially in the areas of early intervention and family support.
The Shalva National Center in Jerusalem treats some 2,000 children with disabilities, making it one of the largest institutions of its kind in the Middle East. Over the years, professionals at Shalva – the organization’s name means “serenity” in Hebrew – have developed and perfected many professional tools and techniques, Avi Samuels, the institution’s chairman, said.
Delegations responsible for implementing the Russian Jewish Congress’ cooperation have visited Shalva in recent weeks to study its methods and Shalva will be a partner in implementing them in Russia, the two organizations said in a joint statement issued Monday.