A new state-of-the-art home inaugurated a month ago in the center of Jerusalem will allow for 35 people suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) and other neurological disorders to live much more independently.
The 1900-square-meter center called “Beis Finger” was built and operated by Colel Chabad, Israel’s longest running social services organization amd is supported by Israel’s Social Services Ministry just like the Grabski Rehabilitation Center hi-tech home in Israel’s northern city of Migdal HaEmek.
Multiple sclerosis is a progressive illness that incapacitates those with the disease. Those who suffer from it have varying degrees of disability with the vast majority only able to perform short and horizontal movements of the wrist and eye. “Beis Finger” affords residents with the maximum opportunities to thrive despite their restrictions in mobility, by using a series of therapeutic-rehabilitative innovations.
“We need to appreciate that one of our most powerful abilities is to do regular, daily activities, like throwing out the garbage,” said horticultural therapist Yoni Brauman, one of the managers of the Grabski Rehabilitation Center, to Breaking Israel News.
“We were amazed to find that by providing our MS residents with the capability of doing simple and daily acts, they actually had the capacity to do much more than we thought,” Yoni continued. “Many more options have now opened up for them, and we are guiding them to expand their abilities.”
Israel’s Social Services Ministry provides basic services at the facilities such as water, electricity, employees, medical care and social workers.
“However, the therapies at Grabski and Beis Finger all come through generous donations made to Colel Chabad, including running the printing workshop, art, horticulture, advanced music room and specialized communications programs,” noted a grateful Brauman.
Both Beis Finger and Grabski Rehabilitation Center also maintain a printing workshop where residents can work and operate machines that print images on cups and clothing. The workshop not only provides a venue of art therapy for the residents in which they can express themselves but also the opportunity for them to sell their aesthetic projects.
“Art therapy provides a way for people to share their emotions, hopes, difficulties and what they are experiencing, in a non-conversational format,” explained Jenny Spero, art therapist at Beis Finger, to Breaking Israel News. “Those who cannot use their hands direct others to do what is in their minds and truly come out with the feeling that, ‘I created this all with my own ideas.’”
The apparent simplicity of the large and open-spaced alternative communications room is a bit unexpected as it only contains a few televisions, lamps and computers. Residents using the communications room create social interactions by independently controlling their surroundings such as choosing what to watch on TV, how bright or dark the room should be and what temperature to set the thermostat. Larger screens show what residents seek to communicate, making the exchange of thoughts and desires much easier, reducing frustration in the process.
“AAC (Alternative Augmentative Communication) was developed for those unable to speak or for whom it is hard to express themselves,” said Gil Roth, a partner at the Israeli company D-bur that created and develops AAC, to Breaking Israel News. “Once one is able to master the machine, they learn to interact with others and engage in social activities, like using cell phones.”
Participants also share pictures, Instagram accounts, write comments online, search videos and create files of their favorite items. Additional interaction is created with team computer games like Kahoot, a computer game in which groups of people can play quizzes, have discussions, or take surveys at the same time. All this opens up their world, rather than having their disabilities isolate them.
Perhaps the most impressive feature in the Beis Finger and Grabski centers is a Physio-therapeutic Music Clinic. This state-of-the-art innovation developed at the University of Haifa synchronizes physical therapy sessions with ingenious Israeli hi-tech. Residents can create music by sitting in front of highly receptive sensors, cameras and computerized systems and then simply move one of their fingers or eyes. The system in Beis Finger is provided by A-muse, a company which develops therapeutic music solutions to increase patient motivation for therapy.
“The music room increases patient motivation to go and do therapy, as it provides a fun and interactive experience rather than a boring, repetitive exercise,” explained Mickey Moore, co-founder and CEO of A-muse, to Breaking Israel News.
“Participants who previously could only move their eye pupils have moved on to using their fingers, and now some are even able to use a cell phone because they have gained confidence and enjoy their exercises.”
Beis Finger’s inauguration was attended by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Director General of the Israel’s National Insurance Institute (Bituach Leumi), Meir Shpeigler. Chief Rabbi David Lau, who was also present affixed one of the mezuzahs (parchments with Biblical passages placed on the right side of every doorpost) at the entrance to the building.
Beis Finger does not only offer severely disabled residents an improved quality of life that maximizes their abilities and independence. The facility also provides them with a designated gathering space to receive warm meals and company in a similar fashion to the way that dozens of soup kitchens maintained by Colel Chabad throughout Israel do.
“I applaud all those who supported this project, and I hope that they will be blessed to continue to make these initiatives possible,” said Israeli Social Services Minister Haim Katz. “Together we can all work to further improve and enhance the level of care to provide only the highest standards.”
The impressive four-story Beis Finger building is named after one of its major donors, Gershon Finger. Eleanor and Ronnie Cohen, Roberto Guttman, Alan and Deborah Kestenbaum, Lord Steinberg, the Nigri family, the Ted Arison Family Foundation and Bituach Leumi, all of whom donated the medical equipment and furnishings, were honored at the opening dinner as well.
To donate to Colel Chabad’s network of social welfare programs, please click here.