June-July 2009: This important class is taking place in Tel Aviv, at the Center for Deaf-Blind Persons. It provides deaf-blind young adults, for the first time in their lives, with the opportunity to learn these skills.
Part of the renowned, international Karten Network (link opens new window) of Computer Training, Education and Communication (CTEC) centers, the Learning Center improves the communication skills and independence of this population through modern technology.
At the Learning Center, deaf-blind individuals learn to connect with the rest of the world and gain access to information, social contact and education through typed or videoed conversations, e-mail and faxing.
Adjusting to Israeli society – a challenge for any immigrant – is especially difficult for deaf-blind olim (immigrants). They cannot study in regular ulpan (Hebrew language) classes and do not have access to sources of information and acculturation that most immigrants take for granted – such as television and radio, army service, and conversation with neighbors, salespeople, clerks and others.
To help deaf-blind immigrants integrate into Israeli society, the Deaf-Blind Center runs a special ulpan that teaches Hebrew, Israeli Sign Language and Hebrew Braille in one-on-one sessions. Transportation is provided as necessary and studies are tailored to meet the specific needs of each new immigrant, most of whom arrive in Israel from the former Soviet Union. More than 70 olim have studied in the ulpan to date.
As a result of their limited ability to relate to their environment, most deaf-blind Jews – native Israelis and immigrants alike – have only minimal knowledge of Judaism, Jewish and Israeli history, culture and traditions. They are often socially isolated as well, which limits their opportunities to attend Jewish life-cycle events. This combination of factors makes deaf-blind Jews easy prey for missionaries who befriend them and win them over to conversion.
The Jewish Identity Program fills the knowledge gap and combats vulnerability to missionary activity through bi-monthly meetings in which deaf-blind adults learn about Jewish heritage and culture and the Israeli society they live in. Built around the Jewish and Israeli calendar, the program includes lectures, interactive workshops, shared holiday celebrations and outings relating to Israeli and Jewish history.
The Center’s Social-Recreational Club provides weekly social programming in a warm, friendly atmosphere for deaf-blind adults ranging in age from 20 to 70, who come from locations across the country. Interpreters are provided for all participants: an interpreter translates into sign language for deaf participants who have some vision, while one-on-one tactile sign language is available for those who are completely deaf-blind.