College IS Possible For Students With Disabilities In Israel
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College IS Possible For Students With Disabilities In Israel

The Henrietta Szold Challenge Center helps students with a range of disabilities succeed in academia

Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer directs Jewish Learning Venture’s Whole Community Inclusion which fosters inclusion of people with disabilities through the Philadelphia Jewish community. She loves writing/editing for “The New Normal” and for WHYY’s newsworks. Her latest book The Little Gate Crasher is a memoir of her Great-Uncle Mace Bugen, a self-made millionaire and celebrity selfie-artist who was 43 inches tall and was chosen for this year’s Jewish Disability Awareness & Inclusion Month Book Selections. She’s recently shared an ELI Talk on Standing With Families Raising Kids With Disabilities and has released a journal designed for special needs parents.

Prof. Bertold Fridlender. Courtesy of Hadassah Academic College
Prof. Bertold Fridlender. Courtesy of Hadassah Academic College

The mission of the Henrietta Szold Challenge Center at Hadassah Academic College is to help students overcome learning challenges or disabilities in order to reach their full academic potential. This unique center in Israel provides a variety of assistance to:

  • Students with physical disabilities or limitations, or medical conditions;
  • Students with learning disabilities, including cognitive or sensory issues;
  • Students for whom Hebrew is not their first language.

The Center provides a wide range of support and guidance for students facing these challenges. The Center takes a holistic approach to student assistance, looking at the big picture and endeavoring to address students’ overall needs as well as their specific issues.

Services offered at the Henrietta Szold Challenge Center include:

  • Individual counseling, including references for diagnosis and/or treatment;
  • Providing answers and information on learning disabilities, including ways of coping and overcoming challenges;
  • Study skills workshops aimed at improving existing skills and imparting new ones. Workshops offer new learning strategies geared towards specific courses, as well as general information on topics such as test-taking preparation and strategies.;
  • Individual assistance in improving study skills;
  • Assistance in adapting to college life and the demands of academic studies;
  • Administering tests for students with specific needs, including students with vision or hearing impairments, those who need extra time for exams due to dyslexia or other learning disabilities, and students for whom Hebrew is a second language;
  • Providing technical and device support for students with physical, vision or hearing disabilities.

New Normal Editor Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer had the opportunity to speak with Prof. Bertold Fridlender, President of Hadassah Academic College to learn about  the inspiration for founding the Challenge Center.

GKM: The Challenge Center supports students with different kinds of disabilities. What was the inspiration to start this center?

BF: Our goal is to reach all segments of the Israeli population…we have a very multicultural student body, including secular and religious students, Arab and Christian students. We also wanted to make it possible for students who have learning disabilities or Asperger Syndrome to succeed. Previously, a lot of these students came into academia and failed—not because they couldn’t make it…but because they didn’t have the support that they needed.

GKM: Can you tell me about what that support looks like at the Center?

BF: At the Center, we support the students and the faculty to work together to provide any accommodations a student may need. For example, if a student with special needs adjustment in some way for an exam, the staff at the Center will help the faculty member to figure out what support the student needs for the exam. Our faculty has been very available for all of students and wants to help them succeed.

GKM: Can you share an example of a student at the college with a disability who has succeeded because of support from the Center?

BF: There are many of those students, but one who stands out is a student who is blind. He is able to use a computer, but because of his disability was not accepted at any other academic institution. He’s now graduated and is working in his field. I am also thinking of another student who came to the College who has dyslexia. He is brilliant also needed support for learning. He’s now earned a PhD and is doing research. For each student who has a disability, we try to find an individual solution to support their studies.

GKM: Are you seeing more examples of the kind of inclusion that you’re making possible at the College in Israeli society?

BF:  Yes, Israeli society is becoming more conscious of inclusion. We hope that our Center can be used as a model for other institutions. In general, the number of students in Israel in academia has remained flat in the last years—but our College has been growing year after year. Students are coming to us for an inclusive, multicultural Academic education.




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