Sixty-one million adults in the United States live with a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates more than one billion people worldwide live with some form of disability. On Monday, January 31, 2022, Marlee Matlin, a Jewish and deaf trailblazing Oscar-winning actress, producer, New York Times bestselling author, and activist, will be the keynote speaker at Jewish National Fund-USA’s (JNF-USA) national virtual event kicking off Jewish Disabilities Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month (JDAAIM), a time of year when Jewish communities and organizations raise awareness and foster inclusion for people with disabilities and special needs.

Marlee Matlin

Deaf since the age of 18 months old, Matlin made history in 1987 as the youngest recipient to win an Academy Award for Best Actress as well as the first (and only) deaf performer to win an Academy Award for her film debut in Children of a Lesser God. Matlin has since starred in many successful films and TV shows, winning multiple Golden Globe awards, and receiving several Emmy nominations throughout her distinguished acting career. Most recently, Matlin starred in the film CODA, which according to Forbes, “has garnered a number of awards and nominations including a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture, Grand Jury Prize at Sundance film festival, as well as receiving the highest purchase price in Sundance history of $25 million dollars.”

Off screen, Matlin has authored four books, including The New York Times bestseller, “I’ll Scream Later,” and spends her time raising awareness for humanitarian causes, disability rights, and hearing health for millions of deaf and hard of hearing children and adults in developing countries.

On January 31, Matlin will join JNF-USA, which leads the world in raising both awareness and funds to improve the quality of life for individuals with disabilities in Israel during the month of February and all year long, for a special program in recognition of JDAAIM, which officially begins February 1.

Through a variety of initiatives, JNF-USA provides cutting-edge rehabilitative services, special education, and medical care for people with special needs and makes Israel’s parks, nature trails, and recreational facilities inclusive for visitors of all ability levels. In addition to hearing from Matlin, attendees will learn about JNF-USA’s disabilities initiatives and its affiliates including:

  • Special in Uniform (aka the Israeli military’s secret weapon), which consists of soldiers with special needs integrated into the IDF
  • Red Mountain Therapeutic Riding Center, an Israeli facility deep in the Negev Desert offering equine therapy to individuals with developmental, neurological, emotional, behavioral, and/or learning difficulties
  • ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran, a state-of-the-art rehabilitative village in Israel’s Negev Desert that has become a home for more than 150 children and young adults with severe disabilities and complex medical conditions
  • LOTEM, an organization making nature accessible for people with disabilities in Israel

“Like all of JNF-USA’s crucial projects making the impossible, possible for the land and people of Israel, its work for those with disabilities and special needs is not limited to just the month of February,” said JNF-USA Executive Director, National Major Donor Advancement, Yossi Kahana. “Year after year, we’ve witnessed how JNF-USA has helped change the lives of Israel’s most vulnerable populations in the Negev and Galilee, ensuring those children and individuals with disabilities and special needs are integrated into all aspects of daily life and tightly woven into the fabric of Israeli culture.”

To register for Jewish National Fund-USA’s free national virtual event featuring Marlee Matlin or if you have questions, visit jnf.org/JDAAIMKickoff or contact Beth Ida Stern, Director, Center of Excellence at bstern@jnf.org or 847.656.8880 x761.

All gifts made toward Jewish Disabilities, Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month will be matched, up to $1 million, through February 28.

About The Publishers
JNF-USA
Jewish National Fund-USA
JNF-USA is the leading philanthropic organization for Israel that supports critical environmental and nation building activities in Israel’s north and south. Through its One Billion Dollar Roadmap for the Next Decade, JNF-USA is developing new communities in the Galilee and Negev, connecting the next generation to Israel, and creating infrastructure and programs that support ecology, individuals with special needs, and heritage site preservation.
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