Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

A Year of Their Own

Braha Bender

For most kids, graduating from high school marks both an end and a beginning. But what opportunities are there for special-needs high school graduates who also want to have a year in Israel — and a fulfilling life after that? Enter Darkaynu, which is opening up new worlds for special-needs teens through its innovative programs.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

special needs boyIt’s hard to describe the feeling when a teen like Peryl* casually drops the phrase, “I’m a shanah alef girl.” We’re sitting in the small, cozy office of Mrs. Elana Goldscheider, menahelet of Midreshet Darkaynu. Located in Talpiot, in the same building as Midreshet Lindenbaum, Midreshet Darkaynu welcomes 15 special-needs girls between the ages of 18 and 24 every year.

In a classroom down the hall the girls are excitedly chatting about “the lady who will write an article about us in a magazine” and Peryl has just walked in to see what all the commotion is about. Now, while Mrs. Goldscheider goes to check on something outside, Peryl plunks herself down on the menahelet’s large swivel chair behind the desk, grins widely, and tells me about her day.

“I love Darkaynu. People here are really, really nice! I love our teachers. It’s a great place to be.”

Peryl’s guileless charisma glows all over her friendly face. This is the first time that I’m having a real conversation with a special-needs girl, and to my surprise I’m discovering that I’m enjoying it.

I ask Peryl about her job. After morning classes, every Midreshet Darkaynu student spends several hours a day at a volunteer job where she can develop life skills and feel contributive. Peryl bubbles over with enthusiasm about what she does.

“I work in a petting zoo cleaning cages! Today two hamsters almost escaped. Also, I fed a mouse to a snake. Do you know how fast a snake moves when it’s hungry?”

I didn’t.

“I’ve loved animals since I was a little kid. I have a cat at home. He’s named Koby.”

It is sometimes difficult for me to understand her slurred speech. Nonetheless, our common language is the simple truths of human life: Peryl has interests. Peryl has goals, accomplishments, relationships. She is glad to tell me about them, and there is nothing cool, calm, and collected about Peryl when she does so. She doesn’t have the same walls the rest of us do. Her emotions are close to the surface, effervescent. Her smiles are genuine. It’s terrifically refreshing to spend time with someone so inspired.

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

Top-Down Theory
Shoshana Friedman Our true currency, the accomplishments we value most
Strive for What Binds Us
Yonoson Rosenblum The chareidi community represents something of an oasis
Embracing Victimhood
Eytan Kobre Combating the allure of victimhood
The Kids Are Going to Camp, the Parents Are Going Broke
Miriam Klein Adelman Mindy has to feel good; it doesn’t matter that I feel ba...
Work/Life Solutions with Carlos Wigle
Moe Mernick “Rejection is Hashem’s protection” 
How to Create a Simple 900-Page Novel
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman All of us can reset the titles of our own lives
Stand There or Do Something
Baruch S. Fertel, MD, MPA, FACEP It’s called collaborative care, and it works miracles
I'm Here — Are You Ready?
Riki Goldstein Upbeat and catchy, but still makes listeners think
Back in Time
Riki Goldstein "I wish I could recapture that excitement"
Mixed Messages
Riki Goldstein The unsung craftsmen who give albums their special touch
Go in Peace
Faigy Peritzman Inner peace makes us vessels for blessing
All Work and No Play
Sarah Chana Radcliffe A life only about doing your duties loses all its color
Dying to Believe
With Rav Moshe Wolfson, written by Baila Vorhand Emunah peshutah is the force behind Jewish continuity