A unique celebration took place on Wednesday evening June16 when the ESRA social center for youth with cerebral palsy opened their excellent and moving photographic exhibition, “People in Color”.

The exhibition celebrated the 10th anniversary of this center.  For the last ten years ESRA has been filling a huge role in the social life of this group of youth with cerebral palsy who meet once a week in Beit Weil in Kfar Shmaryahu (see article below by Helen Schary Motro).

About three months ago, Dr. Lilach Naishtat, who had been a volunteer with the group, took over the leadership. She had a dream to tell the stories of the young members through photographs and art works. Within six weeks of hard work and thought, Naishtat organized an exhibition together with student photographers from Photo Way and with the help of amazing volunteers from the Ruppin College Behavioral Sciences Faculty who had been working with the teenagers all year.

The Mayor of Kfar Shmaryahu, Dror Aloni, was approached and through his willingness to help, donors were contacted who underwrote the whole event:   our thanks to Benny and Lanias Steinmetz, Osem and Rakuta Kas for the roles they played in financing this production.

The evening began as the sun was setting.  People visited the photographs on display which gave a visual picture of the amazing stories of this group. The stories were presented in a catalog; the process of empowerment through telling their stories for the first time and seeing their photos on display, was evident in the faces of the teenagers in this group of special people.  The families were filled with pride and excitement when discovering their family member among the pages of the booklet.

At the wine and fruit reception, the Mayor Aloni spoke very warmly to the participants and thanked them for the insight they had given the community. Merle Guttmann, ESRA President and Founder, gave a very interesting history of ESRA's involvement in initiating and establishing a continuum of social programs for children and adults with handicaps. This particular club, she told us, was conceived and started by Heidi Wax, then a resident of Kfar Shmaryahu who ran ESRA’s Techushons for special needs children. Wax felt that Beit Weil, the then newly built community center in Kfar Shmaryahu which was accessible to persons with disabilities, would be a perfect and dignified setting for teenagers with cerebral palsy. The mayor and town council of Kfar Shmaryahu agreed to host the new ESRA social club. For the past eight years Noga Raz, a local resident, has been running this project on a volunteer basis.

Dr. Lilach Naishtat, the group’s leader and initiator of the exhibition explained her vision to the crowd of at least 100 visitors.

Noga Raz handed each member of the club a certificate for being part of this unique group.

The photographs and catalogues can be seen at Tel Aviv University’s Gallery (November 1-12). Well worth a visit!

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Joan Weisman

Joan (Stein) Weisman came to Israel in August 1972 and two weeks later started teaching. She lived in Jerusalem but traveled to Kiryat Malachi to work in two elementary schools. After four years of...

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