Monday, March 27, 2023

Dianne and Stan Bekritsky invite the greater Teaneck community to come learn about the Jerusalem Institute for the Blind (JIB) on Wednesday, June 7 from 7:45 to 9:00 p.m. Participants will learn how to pair wines and cheeses but more importantly, they will hear about the wonderful work JIB does to assist the many Israeli children who are blind or visually impaired.

JIB was founded in 1902, in the Old City of Jerusalem, and has been helping Israeli children find a way to compensate for their lack of sight ever since. When it began, the vision of the organization was simple: “To help raise a student’s self esteem so that he will not depend on others for help, but will himself become a helpful member of society.” To this day that remains the goal of the organization. The first institute in Israel to care for the blind, the JIB has always excelled in providing special education to the exceptional child. Currently, the Institute provides a wide range of activities for education, rehabilitation, health and social welfare for the blind and visually impaired.

So how did the Bekritskys get involved? Like many, Dianne and Stan receive copious letters from different organizations asking for money. Dianne’s parents, as well as an uncle, were all blind. So she and her husband regularly contribute to many organizations for the blind. One day, her son, who lives in Israel, received a letter from the JIB. “I opened it up and from what I read it was an amazing institution,” Dianne shared. “The caring that they do there is unparalleled. They give these kids the self-esteem they need.”

“I learned from my parents about the challenges of being blind as well as the importance of having a system of support and special education to learn how to deal with blindness,” she told The Jewish Link. “For them it wasn’t a disability—it was a challenge. There are always challenges in life. They considered blindness something to overcome.” And overcome they did. Her mom became completely independent and worked for the City of New York. Her uncle, Abraham Nemeth, PhD, developed the Nemeth Code of Braille Mathematics and Scientific Notation. Thanks to his work many other blind individuals were able to learn mathematics and excel in their professions.

They were aided by institutions such as the Jewish Guild for the Blind and the New York Institute for the Blind that taught them life skills such as how to use a cane; how to use a fork, knife and spoon; how to read Braille; and how to be active in sports. The Jerusalem Institute for the Blind does the same thing. They give their students self-esteem and instill in them a can-do attitude: “Ok, I’m blind but I can do this.” When the Bekritskys were in Israel they saw some JIB students running in the Jerusalem Marathon; running in pairs with sighted partners. “It was an amazing thing to witness.”

From its state-of-the-art campus in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Moshe neighborhood, JIB serves as a home, school, social outlet, sports center, respite provider, confidence builder and networking enabler for the many blind and visually impaired individuals throughout Israel—as well as for those who care for them.

This widely respected landmark hosts a campus featuring spacious dormitories that accommodate students from Israel and around the world as well. Highly trained and devoted teachers, counselors and psychologists encourage social, emotional and educational independence through personal, individual plans aimed at greater integrations into the students’ specific communities.

To make sure that the students can find a field of study that interests them and in many instances, an occupation best suited to their capabilities, the campus also features a vocational school, as well as computer education courses.

JIB also hosts a library made up of a huge array of texts in a variety of formats including Braille and audio. The campus is also home to the National Sports Center for the Blind, which offers activities designed to develop coordination along with confidence and spirit.

The Teaneck event is free but donations to the organization would be greatly appreciated. JIB is a 501(c)3organization. To RSVP or receive private residence location details, email Leo Brandstatter, JIB executive director, at [email protected], or call 212-532-4155. To make a donation or learn more about the organization, visit www.jewishblind.org.

By Sara Kosowsky Gross


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