AKIM considers culture and healthy life-style important elements in having a meaningful life for every person. With over 30 years of experience in developing and promoting rich variety of culture, art and sports activities, AKIM is constantly enriching and empowering the lives of people with IDD and their inclusion in the society.
Among the services and various frameworks AKIM is operating one can find adults social clubs, children (ages 3-6) and youth (ages 6-21) after school activities in the Aftercare programs at schools of the special education system, day camps in the high holidays and summer caps, organized vacations all across the country and abroad for people in every functioning levels, leisure activities in housing frameworks and much more.
Arts @ AKIM
AKIM has two theater companies: the first is the Other Theater in Tel Aviv showing the Cabaret Cellophane Paper; the second is the Afula Valley Theater presenting the play Simple Dreams, winner of the 2017 Shalem Foundation Award for Excellency.
All the actresses and actors are people with IDD and the plays showcase their personal experiences, presenting their lives in an unfiltered fashion. The plays are an important tool for changing attitudes towards people with IDD and for raising awareness to their struggle to be included in the society.
In addition to the theater groups, AKIM has several choirs and is promoting artists and plastic artists with IDD. By organizing exhibitions, AKIM is helping artists to publish and market their art works.
People with intellectual disabilities can be dramatically expressive if their skills are fostered and directed in a suitable way. Acting on stage is an excellent vehicle to accomplish this: expanding the actor’s horizon, enhancing his/her experiences and providing a sense of interaction, team-work and personal achievement.
“The Other Theater”
One of Akim’s most successful initiatives was the establishment of “The Other Theater” thirty years ago. The project has initiated the production of various plays in front of large audiences throughout Israel and in a number of international festivals.
All the people in the cast have intellectual disabilities: some of them are actors, some of them serve as technical assistants.
The actors participate in a workshop throughout the year at the theater, where they are involved in creative drama, movement, music, plays viewing, rehearsals, play production and of course, they put on the play for different publics – school pupils, education professionals, etc.
Among the plays produced by “The Other Theater”, one can name XXXX “Cellophane Paper”, a sarcastic cabaret that tells the story of people with intellectual disabilities. The screenplay was written together with the Other Theater’s actors, and it is based on stories and anecdotes from their daily life. The name of the play is taken from a song performed by one of the actors about “transparent people”.
Besides “The other theater”, AKIM runs another theater called “Simple Dreams”, located in the Galilee.“Simple Dreams” is a theater group composed of around twenty adults (ages ranging 25-40) with intellectual disabilities, who live in the Bet Shean Valley (Northern Israel). The cast, which began as a regular theater class, eventually started performing a play called “Simple dreams”. The play was created over the course of the work with the participants, after each one of them shared his or her personal dream.
During the play, one of the actors, who plays the narrator, shares his experience about the signification of being different, while the actors express their dreams and aspirations through various theatrical techniques.
The group is regularly invited to perform in front of several communities allover Israel such as Jewish, Muslims, Druze, from all ages: pupils in schools, students, families, senior citizens.
Choir and Arts
In addition to the theater groups, AKIM has several choirs and is promoting artists and plastic artists with intellectual disabilities. By organizing exhibitions, AKIM is helping artists to publish and market their art works.
Around 15 people with Intellectual Disabilities are members of the “Tzlile Aviv” choir. Part of them come from AKIM’s housing frameworks in Tel Aviv while part of them live in the community.
Once a week, they meet for a rehearsal with the choir’s director and prepare for concerts. The choir has already performed at various events: in front of the President, in Jerusalem, at the Tel Aviv University or in schools. They also appear in AKIM’s frameworks in Holiday parties (Hannuka, Purim) or in summer parties.
Participating in the choir reinforce the participants’ self-esteem, sense of pride and belonging, especially as they also enjoy a social meeting with their peers.
Every summer, AKIM Israel provides a wide range of leisure activities for children with intellectual disabilities. Children and teens (ages ranging from 5 to 21) are participating in summer camps held during the last two weeks of August.
The summer camps operate for a period of one week to ten days each, taking place in special and calming environments and atmospheres that are different from their daily routine. Children from across the country, from Eilat in the South to Afula in the North, enjoyed a fun, enriching and challenging activities, such as swimming, sports, music or arts and crafts workshops.
The summer camps offer a unique solution and opportunity for children with intellectual disabilities and provide their families with the possibility to take a break from the intensive and challenging daily routine.
Short recreational vacations are a normal part of modern life. For people with intellectual disabilities, a vacation is a much-needed break from tiring routine at home. For the family, it is an actual necessity.
Short-term vacations provide an opportunity for mentally disabled people of different communities and cultures to meet in the context of common interest, namely relaxation, and enjoyment.
The vacations provide a change of environment and atmosphere from everyday life. The activities during these vacations are intended to relieve tensions and be fun.
Our short vacation project would enable people with intellectual disabilities, their families, and instructors to meet together. The encounter would take place in a recreational environment, with all participants enjoying equal resources.
These encounters are held at several sites across the country. Where many different programs, such as art, nature, etc., will be provided. Every community would choose the place and program it wants based on the wishes of its members. As a result, people of different communities with intellectual disabilities, who chose it out of their interest in the subject, would attend each program.
We believe that such encounters, in a recreational setting, with no elements of competition and rich in occupational opportunities, will contribute to closer relations among different communities.
Thanks to the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare’s AKIM Members are participating, every year, in the “Hashachar” (dawn) delegation which is for adults with intellectual disabilities to the extermination camps in Poland, which is for adults with intellectual disabilities.
It is a personal and internal journey that will accompany the participants throughout their lives and make a significant contribution to their sense of equality and belonging.
Betzavta: Teaching Of Jewish Texts
This Betzavta project was initiated at the first Co-Lab, a unique platform for social leaders and change-makers from across religious, ethnic, cultural, gender and economic divides established by the UJA- Federation of New York. Rabbi Avi Novis-Deutsch, the Dean of the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary and Sigal Peretz Yahalomi, general director of AKIM, both fellows at the Co-Lab initiated the idea to collaborate between the two organizations and offer people with IDD the opportunity to learn Jewish texts.
In 2016, a small pilot was operating in two AKIM’s social clubs in the cities of Holon and Rehovot. The theme was Jewish holidays, and the participants were very enthusiastic. The success of the pilot encouraged AKIM and the Schechter Rabbinical Seminar to make it a yearly program, and they requited the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Shalem Foundation to support the program.
The year-long program includes six one-hour meetings, once every two weeks to learn a different text about the current year’s theme. The texts are all written in an easy-to-read that is adapted to the cognitive level of the participants. Thus, making Judaism more accessible to those who wish to learn more about their heritage and tradition. To make the texts even more accessible, we developed a more interactive method as the teacher uses aids such as music, foods, pictures, movies, animation and props to better illustrate the material. However, the traditional structure of text learning is being maintained to allow participants to experience the way of learning of many generations of Jews in our history.
Every Jewish person – shares a covenant with God. To us, a community is measured by its responsibility to all its members, the unity that prevails in it, and the inclusion of the weakest people.
Those days, groups of 10 – 15 people with IDD in the cities of Naharia, Akko, Jerusalem, Bet-Yam, Rehovot, Kiriyat Malachi, Be’er Sheva and Eilat have the chance to learn about their Jewish roots.