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The op-ed below was featured in The Times of Israel and was written by my wife Shira, the Israel director of our foundation. Our foundation is partnering with the Feuerstein Institute to explore this issue and create a structure wherein people with developmental disabilities can get married.
Ami and Sivan (not their real names) are getting married soon. They are attending sessions to practice communication and problem solving skills, undergoing bride and groom counseling separately, learning household management and budget planning, receiving sexual education. They are very happy together and cannot wait to begin their life’s journey in unison.
What you may not know about Ami and Sivan is that they are both people with a developmental disability. Go back for a second and reread the above paragraph. What do you think now?
The prevailing trend in Israel is to discourage people with a developmental disability from getting married, in many cases because of pre-existing prejudices. But people with developmental disabilities, like all of us, don’t want to be alone – they want to be socially active, to form relationships. We as a society do not have the right to intervene and tell someone they cannot start a family. We cannot deny people the freedom to be with someone else and instead condemn them to a life of loneliness.
The Ruderman Family Foundation has partnered with the Feuerstein Institute to create a formal structure whereby people with developmental disabilities can get married. We have formed a joint public committee which will hear from a wide range of leaders from different fields- judges, rabbis, lawyers and social workers among others. The State of Israel, represented by the Welfare and Education Ministries, will weigh in on the ramifications of encouraging marriage between people with disabilities. Their support and sanctioning these marriages will help create an atmosphere which will welcome these unions and aid a public awareness campaign we will launch soon.
Our partnership aims to establish contact with existing couples to prepare them for marriage, to provide a support system for the couples after marriage, to change public attitudes and to create a suitable legal infrastructure to uphold legal requirements. Rather than shying away from this conversation, we are bringing it to the forefront.
Continue reading the post on Times of Israel.
Read our last post: Peoplehood and Disability
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