Oren Itzhaki, CEO of Nalaga'at
Empowering People who are Deaf and/or Blind
Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, was celebrated on Wednesday night and Thursday so we are delighted to support an innovative program in Israel. In addition, this week’s Torah portion, Kedoshim, we read “You shall not insult the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind.” In this spirit, we are featuring an organization dedicated to empowering people who are deaf and/or blind through its restaurant, cafe and performing arts center in Jaffa, Israel.
Read our interview below with CEO Oren Itzhaki.
What is the mission of your organization?
Nalaga’at is a non-profit cultural and arts center that is unique in the world. The center is home to the Nalaga’at Theater, BlackOut Dark Restaurant, Kapish Event Center and Workshop Center. Nalaga’at has created an innovative model of integrating people with disabilities into society. It provides a forum to bring together those who are hearing or sight impaired with the general public.
What is a story about Na Laga'at that is meaningful to you?
Through the years, “Not by Bread Alone” drum beats could be heard on stage. This signal announces the start of a new scene. The on stage actors cannot see the hand beating the drum and likewise cannot hear the sound. The actors have learned to sense and feel its vibration. This ability is due to a long and complex process in which the actors learn to feel the vibration of the rhythm as it travels through the air.
What's the best part of your job and why?
The best part of my job has been seeing our audiences admiration when meeting with our actors. They show a desire to communicate in sign language and learn about the lives of blind and deaf people.
Why did you decide to work at Na Laga’at?
Our organization answers the need to contribute and help populations that are unable to integrate into society in a special and egalitarian manner.
How would you connect your organization to a Jewish value?
Nalaga'at ("Please Touch" in Hebrew) Center has been operating successfully establishing itself as a leading, prominent and innovative culture center both in Israel and worldwide. The Center currently employs dozens of people with disabilities working in the fields of administration, culture, hospitality, and education setting a leading model for social change in Israel and abroad. For us, it's our way to promote "Tikun Olam." The connection to Judaism appears in several ways. Nalagaat’s next theater production will be about the perception of the term "disability" in Judaism according to the Torah. During the Jewish holidays, Nalagaat’s Center offers activities that combine the holiday's content together with Nalaga’at social message. Nalagaat’s values are openness, tolerance, and acceptance of the other. We feel it's part of our responsibility as Jewish people in the world.
What has surprised you about working with your organization?
The lack of familiarity of people who hear and see in understanding the capabilities of people who do not hear or do not see
What are some non-monetary ways for others to get involved in your organization or cause?
It would be great to bring in more people with disabilities. The more friends we have in spreading the word of our efforts, the better.