Shutaf Stories


Daniella, Shutaf Teen

daniella“Shutaf changed my life,” declared 18 year old, Daniella Perl, a participant in Shutaf’s Young Leadership for Teens. The program, which provides social opportunities, vocational training and interpersonal skill-building, also offers employment at Shutaf vacation camps and weekly activities for teens, ages 14-21. Daniella, who’s currently enrolled in a National Service program for young people with disabilities, doesn’t miss a Thursday evening at Shutaf.



Ofra, Shutaf Counselor

OfraOfra worked at Shutaf in August, 2013. A trained educator and coordinator of the Anti Violence Education Program at a Jerusalem high school, Ofra loved her Shutaf experience, especially the pre-camp training.  “It was the best I’ve ever had,”  she describes, adding that the new tools learned are useful in her year-round work. She intends to build her skills further at Shutaf’s year-round training sessions, available to every staffer.


The Nachmani Family

Yaffa Nachmani is the single-parent of six children. Her two youngest boys, both of whom have emotional and behavioral challenges, have participated in Shutaf programs. Life at home is chaotic, with little money around for necessities such as food and clothing. Yaffa says, “Shutaf is the highlight of the week for both of my kids,” a place where their needs are supported and cared for, where they can interact with their peers, with and without disabilities, as well as Shutaf staff and devoted teen volunteers. It’s a community experience that makes a difference for this struggling family.


Mary, Shutaf Camper

Mary had never been to any kind of informal-education program before Shutaf. An inquisitive 14-year old, she has made tremendous headway at Shutaf’s year-round programs. Mary’s aunt, who assists with this immigrant-Russian family’s needs, was thrilled with Mary’s success, noting how her language and social skills have improved dramatically thanks to Shutaf.



Josh's Story
“Thank G-d for Shutaf! If you are the parent of a kid with special needs, then you know all about 'summer camp rejection.'
 As the mother of a child who has mild cerebral palsy, vision impairment and epilepsy, my camper was routinely excluded from most camps.

There are sports camps, swim camps and all kinds of camps for regular children.  Many children with medical and emotional issues also have specific camps that address their needs. There are camps for the blind and visually impaired and camps for children undergoing treatment for cancer. There are camps for children with AIDS and camps for children who have lost loved ones to terror. There are summer camps for children with Autism. This is all good.

Upon arriving in Israel, I heard a lot about the different kaytanot (summer camps) and I was facing the summer with some dread, not having found a camp for Josh. Then I picked up the Jerusalem Post one day and read about other parents – smarter and more can-do than myself – who faced the same problem with their children with special needs and decided to do something about it. They started their own inclusion summer camp for kids, ages 6-21, who have mild to moderate physical and learning disabilities.

It’s called Shutaf (“Partner”), and it meets three times a year – August, Hanukkah and Passover – during school vacations for many special education schools. Children without special needs are included in every camper group. For those over 16, such as my son, there is the option of being on the “junior counselor” track, also an inclusive program – teens with special needs work alongside their typical peers.

Josh loves Shutaf. He has been a junior counselor now for three years. There is something about Shutaf and it’s staff that has made my son more responsible. Josh gets constant professional supervision and is learning how to handle different situations with children and staff. He is given constructive criticism in order to learn and become more attuned to the needs of others like himself.

Although camp is a lot of fun, it is a huge responsibility to work with the children and the staff. Josh has learned to arrive at work on time and to respect those in higher positions. He is sometimes asked to do undesired tasks and has learned to complete them to the best of his ability.

Josh watches the staff closely, learning from their example and how they respond to the children. He feels that it is a safe environment where he can take risks, learn from successes and failures and continue to grow. These are the tools, along with maturity and compassion, that Shutaf has bestowed on our son to equip him for his future.

The lessons learned at Shutaf are priceless.