When I began serving as Chairman of this important organization, I found myself entering a world with an inner language that expresses a belief in the ability of people and consequently, of society, to change. This language places the individual at the center with an encompassing supportive and inclusive environment, advocating and motivating towards maximum integration.

I strongly believe in people, created in God’s image. I find it very exciting to discover how, in measured and goal-oriented work, Akim’s staff and volunteers succeed at focusing on each individual by going beyond the disability and revealing the countenance of each face and ultimately the light of the soul.

AKIM’s goal of promoting self-advocacy is a valiant one that requires each one of us to get beyond our natural tendency to define and categorize, and our desire to fall back on familiar comfort zones.  AKIM is calling on each member of society to expand his/her circle of belonging. The motif behind joining this circle is conveying to others that they are not transparent, that their presence is noted, that they are heard, and being sincerely engaged by others.

In the process of bringing each person into this circle of inclusion, there is a real tension between the pursuit of freedom and our natural urge to protect a person from harm. In order to mitigate the impulse to protect the more vulnerable, we need to reinforce our belief in their capabilities, in their unique will, in their growth, despite failures along the way.

This journey on the path towards freedom requires tremendous courage. AKIM, as a leading provider of advocacy and empowerment towards inclusion, has chosen this path.  AKIM’s direction is to focus on the individual, tapping strengths while striving to actualize dreams.

I observe people and family members who are coping with intellectual disabilities and witness a miracle. The natural tendency of people facing a complex reality is to retract and become absorbed in the day to day challenges. AKIM activists and volunteers choose the opposite. They did not become the parents or siblings of, or the ones coping with mental and developmental disabilities by choice. Rather they chose to be emissaries and help improve Israeli society by transforming it into becoming a better, more inclusive one.

I am full of gratitude for the privilege that has been bestowed upon me to be a partner in this journey. I have no allusions about how quickly the change we strive for will take place. Beliefs and ways of thinking that evolved over thousands of years are entrenched within the depths of our conduct. The change must be gradual and we must remain mindful of the realities. That said, marking the goal of witnessing this transformation and striving to achieve it with determination is the narrative of this exceptional organization.

This is what our sages taught us in the Mishnah: “You are not obligated to complete the task, but you are not free to exempt yourself from it.”

Sincerely Yours,

Rabbi Dr. Benyamin (Benny) Lau

Chairman of AKIM ISRAEL