Jersualem, Israel — Taglit-Birthright is a non-profit organization that sponsors all-expense paid heritage trips for young Jews to Israel. Just before the year ended, Birthright organized a heritage trip that was slightly different than most of the other ones held in the past— a trip especially arranged for young individuals with autism.
Led by Rabbi Elyse Winick, the special Birthright trip had 25 participants— all of them with ASD or related conditions. According to Taglit-Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark,
“While this [trip] might have been a little different because of the level of support needed by the participants, it is the same type of encounter for them, and we are pleased they were able to take part in this life-changing experience that every young Jewish adult has been experiencing until now.”
According to Rabbi Winick, the trips they arrange for young individuals with autism is not as daunting as it would seem. Even the local hotels that accommodate the participants made adjustments to cater to their needs. She told:
“It’s like that sabra story – you have to get past the prickly layer, and all of a sudden they want to be accommodating.”
Rabbi Winick hopes that as time changes, there won’t be any need to separate individuals with autism from others in trips such as Birthright.
“When the world changes and there’s more mainstreaming, we won’t need a separate group,”
Contributed by Althea Estrella Violeta
Source: Eitan Arom on The Jerusalem Post website: Autism is no barrier for Birthright