Tracey Shipley
Youth, family and addictions counselor/creative therapist/band organizer and manager/event producer/writer

AKIM Jerusalem: A Comedian and Aliza Begin

When I was a teen my mom flew to Israel with my father and came back a different person. That was in essence the beginning of my journey to making Aliyah.  On the plane, she met Menachem Begin and spent the entire flight chatting with him with her usual charm and flair.  Enchanted by her, Begin invited my parents to their home for Kabalat Shabbat where they were greeted by Aliza, Menachem’s wife and that is when my mother; a former star in Yiddish theater; began to fall in love with Israel.

Soon after arriving home my mom; Rachel Shipley contacted the heads of Begin’s Revisionist party in the US and the heads of their youth group Beitar. Before we knew it, we were Madrichim (counselors) in Betar leading a group of youth not much younger than us in what was to be the first Jewish Zionist and activist youth movement in Orlando Florida.  Orlando being a quiet non-political town at the time was not really ready for demonstrations and the like so we had quite an impact which led to quite a few of our Chanichim making Aliyah.

Why am I sharing all of this?  My one memory of a gift given to my mom by Aliza was a round rug made by residents of one of the Akim homes in Israel; a home dedicated to the respectful care and empowerment of people with intellectual disabilities.  Akim was founded in 1951 By a couple of Jerusalem doctors, Dr. Malka-Mali and Dr. Avraham Spighel, immigrant Zionists from Germany, who initiated the establishment of the “Akim Association”. Together with a handful of friends from Jerusalem, most of whom were like The Spighel couple, parents of children with special needs. Akim Jerusalem serves individuals from childhood through young adulthood and their senior years. A key component of the AKIM-Jerusalem mission is inclusion in the community at large.

As a creative therapist who studied Art Therapy, I have seen the powerful effect of the arts.  Primarily working with teens, I have witnessed remarkable changes in their self-esteem through theater, music and art programs that I have run over the years.  With this in mind, I was excited to hear what Akim Jerusalem does in the field of the Arts.  AKIM-Jerusalem’s aim: to strengthen those with special needs to integrate into Israeli society.

Art and Leisure activities also serve to cultivate social relations among residents and to enrich their world with varied hobbies, including sports, gardening, music, theater, photography, the plastic arts, sculpture and other interests. The counselors provide support for the residents, with awareness of their difficult challenges, and strengthen and advance their capacities to fulfill their potential.

Moshe Ferster the comedian working with Akim-Jerusalem residents- photograph taken by Moran Shmolov

As a part of the theater showcasing, this past Wednesday, August 24 at the “Terminal” Auditorium in Jerusalem’s First Station the comedian and actor Moshe Ferster joined residents of Akim Jerusalem in presenting a short comic routine. “The performance featured “The Land of Wondrous Animals” accompanied by short acts. The performance was conceived as highlights of a year-long course in stand-up comedy and acting that comedian and actor Moshe Ferster gave to members of the AKIM-Jerusalem community (residents of hostels and apartments adapted to the needs of adults with cognitive and developmental disabilities.)  Each scene of this heartwarming show brings to life the joy and mutual warmth that this special program nurtured between the instructor and his students.” Moshe Ferster is a well-known comedian and actor featured in television programs with broad appeal to young audiences, including Hisardut (“Survival”), Hashminia (“The Octet”)  and Kupa Rashit (“Customer Service Desk”), where he played the role of Mosh Weiss Stritiner.

Nir Levy, CEO of AKIM-Jerusalem: “I am very moved by the tremendous abilities of our community—their capacity for spontaneity and their natural talent and love of theater.  I am grateful to the staff of the First Station for this special collaboration and their dedication to this program, to Moshe, and to the residents of AKIM-Jerusalem.  I admire their significant achievements in producing Eretz Yitsurei Hapele (“Land of Wondrous Beings). Our thanks to Moshe Ferster for his loving dedication to our community, and I share with everyone my tremendous pride in the wonderful residents of AKIM-Jerusalem.”

Akim Jerusalem residents learning comedy- photograph taken by Moran ShmolovHere is a clip of one of Moshe’s theater classes with the Akim-Jersalem’s actors:

For more information about Akim Jerusalem, to get involved as a volunteer or contributor or to look into a program or facility for a loved one visit their website at:

Akim’s annual fundraising trek “Miles for Smiles” is coming up, Join Akim-Jerusalem for a 2-day trek, enjoy wonderful views and lovely accommodations and help improve the quality of life of individuals with intellectual disabilities.

About the Author
Tracey Shipley is a youth and family counselor specializing in addictions and family communication. She was born in the US and moved to Israel in 1984 to continue her studies in Art Therapy. She moved back to the US in 1989 and began working in a drug rehab for teens where she was trained while she worked as a primary counselor. She moved back to Israel in 1996 and continued her work in addictions at the Jerusalem Methadone Clinic for a total of 9 years. She initiated projects for the children of the addicts at the Methadone Clinic, Established a program for Ethiopian Teens educating them about their culture and opened the Jerusalem School of Rock program which helps to create teen rock bands and established monthly teen music events at downtown venues where teens perform for their friends in a teen friendly exciting atmosphere. In addtion to her projects Tracey was the English Speaking Volunteer Coordinator for Emunah Jerusalem succeeding in bringing in more funds and volunteers than ever before. Tracey organizes monthly Rock Festivals and manages rock bands young and old. Tracey also writes for Times of Israel and the Jerusalem Post.
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