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Israeli Yeshiva Starts Program For Students With Autism

Israeli Yeshiva Starts Program For Students With Autism

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.

Yeshivat Maale Gilboa, a popular destination for study for both American students on their gap year between high school and college and Israeli students post-army service, has created a program for young people who have Asperger Syndrome and may not be able to study in a traditional yeshiva setting.

While specialised classrooms available in the public school system allow many of these individuals to attend standard high schools, at the completion of high school many of these students are unable to find their niche. Often the army is unwilling to draft them, and the Yeshivot and Mechinot (pre-army academies) are not equipped to accept them into their standard programs.

Two years ago, a number of parents approached Yeshivat Maale Gilboa about accepting their sons who had Asperger Syndrome into the yeshiva. The yeshiva agreed to start an experimental pilot with two such students. The next year two more students joined. This year the program has been opened on an official level and has an enrolment of nine students.

The program, Shiluv Meshalev, seeks to provide a post-high school track for religious young men with Asperger Syndrome. It strives to help these young men cultivate the social tools and life skills to go on to become productive and successful members of Israeli society, while deepening their connection to Torah study and religious life.

In the morning, the students work on a local farm to gain vocational experience and training. The afternoon is devoted to small group study with yeshiva students and specially geared classes with the faculty. Each Shiluv Meshalev student participates in an elective, such as music, creative writing, computers, etc., of his choice presented by local residents and other yeshiva students. In the evenings, participants attend individual and group meetings with professionals like therapists, psychologists, and counselors who fashion an individually suited plan for each of them. In addition, the participants share meals and down time with local “adopting” families who provide a sense of home and warmth. The program lasts for two years.

Click here to see a video of the program. For more information, contact Director Moti Toren at

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