Miriam Avraham and Beth Steinberg are Jerusalem Moms, each with a special needs child. When faced with limited opportunities to provide their kids with meaningful summer and after-school activities they decided it was time to do something about it. Refusing to just bemoan the lack of quality programs, they set about to start their own. What began in 2007 as a summer program with 10 children, has grown today to Shutaf, a well-run quality organization that provides summer camp, after-school activities and holiday camp experiences for both special needs and typical kids. This inclusive program follows a model that encourages diversity and welcomes children with and without disabilities from across the religious and economic spectrum.
We first visited Shutaf on a warm afternoon during our Israel trip this past February. Set in Jerusalem’s beautiful Nature Museum, Shutaf’s programs were literally buzzing with activity. Each group is composed of both special needs and typical children of different ages with a range of disabilities. As we walked the halls we noticed one group intently watching a snake handler sharing the mysteries of snakes, while another group nearby was working on an arts and crafts project. In all of the noise and activity stood Deb, Shutaf’s amazing program director, totally unfazed by the din and activity.
Have Miriam and Beth hit upon a real need in their community? You bet. In the few years since they began, they now have a waiting list of families anxious to enroll their kids in Shutaf programs.
It did not take us long to decide that Good People Fund tzedakah could be wisely invested in scholarships for potential campers. In addition, a generous donor came forward and underwrote an amazing Purim party which all the kids enjoyed.