As I started my role as Akim’s chairman, I found myself entering a living space with an inner language that believes in the ability of humans and society to change. This language seeks to put the person at the center and produce a supportive and inclusive system around him, advocating and motivating for maximum integration.
I strongly believe in humans, which are God’s image. My great excitement is to discover how, in precise and goal-oriented work, Akim’s people, in the whole chain of this precious enterprise, succeed in producing this motivation that peels the disability and discovers the light of the person’s face as a person. Walking towards self-advocacy is also a courageous move that requires all of us, all parts of society, to strive and get out of our cataloging and comfort zones and expand the circle of belonging. The main motive of entering the circle is a person’s feeling that he is not transparent; he is seen, counted, listened to, and intentionally asked how he is.
In the process of bringing every person into the circle of belonging, there is a great tension between the pursuit of freedom and our natural urge to protect a person from harm. To release the reflective movement of protecting someone who seems unprotected to me, I need to increase within myself the belief in his powers, in his will, in his growth, even out of falls. This walk towards freedom requires a lot of courage, and Akim has chosen this path as an advocating and empowering framework. Akim has decided to focus on the person, exhausting his powers and striving to realize his dreams.
I look at people and family members who face intellectual disabilities and see a miracle before my eyes. Many human beings who face a complex reality tend to converge into their life experience and fortify themselves within it. Akim volunteers chose the opposite. They did not choose to be parents, siblings, or deal with mental and developmental disabilities but to be public messengers and lead society to a better, more corrected, and inclusive place.
I am full of gratitude for the privilege that has fallen to me to be a partner in this journey. I am not naive to think that the repair needed in society can occur in a hurry. Beliefs and opinions of thousands of years of culture immersed in the depths of our social conduct and changes must be slow and attentive to reality. But marking the goal and striving for constant correction is the life story of this organization or family. This is what our sages told us in the Mishnah: “You do not have to finish the job, and you are not free to be eliminated from it.”
Rabbi Dr. Benyamin (Benny) Lau
Chairman of AKIM ISRAEL