Cindy Grosz

What do JNF, IDF and Kulanu Have in Common? — With Cindy’s Corners

Many of us associate JNF as “those tree certificates” and IDF as the military and Kulanu as a school. You are right… BUT all these groups offer so much more.

Recently, all three organizations joined forces to celebrate the success of a program for students and people with disabilities they work together on.

As part of the focus on improving the quality of life in Israel for all its citizens, Jewish National Fund is ensuring that no member of Israeli society is left behind. The fact that nearly 13% of Israel’s citizens are considered physically or mentally challenged is an opportunity for them to live all of our values. They work passionately to ensure that the inclusion of people with disabilities and special needs should be woven tightly into the fabric of Jewish life. All the more so in Israel.

Photo: JNF

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) goes beyond ensuring the security of Israel; it provides those who serve with valuable professional and social life skills. Serving in the IDF is an integral part of life for young Israelis and is why Jewish National Fund works with Special in Uniform to give youth with disabilities the opportunity to integrate into the IDF. The program was founded to give everyone a right to fulfill their potential and be accepted into society, regardless of any disability. After an initial assessment, participants attend a 3-month life skills and occupational training program to help them integrate into their bases and function independently. They also take part in a four-day military training course before being assigned to bases across Israel where they take on jobs ranging from preparing protective kits to culinary work. Special in Uniform goes beyond the walls of IDF bases, helping its graduates integrate into the workforce and Israeli society in meaningful ways.

Kulanu Ba’aretz is a three month vocational-educational study program for young men and women with special needs ages 18-23.  The program is geared towards individuals who want to spend an unforgettable semester living, working, studying, growing and touring in Israel.  Our program is based at Kibbutz Shluchot, in the foothills of the Gilboa Mountains in the Bet Shean Valley.

Kulanu Ba’aretz is a unique opportunity for an individual with special needs to develop new skills, build self-esteem and independence, make new friends, and grow in a physically and emotionally safe environment. Our students are stimulated socially, emotionally and physically, often in ways they would not have at home while experiencing the spirit and culture of Eretz Yisrael.

Four students who studied in this program participated in the IDF’s Special in Uniform program. They graduated and received their official IDF berets that night.

Meet Pamela Rae Schuller, Comic

At the event, Pamela Rae Schiller, performed. Her observations on disability, mental illness, dating, family, and past misadventures have led to brutally honest confessions about what it’s like being 4 foot 6 (and a half) and having a whole lot of Tourette Syndrome.

As a teen, Pamela had the worst-diagnosed case of Tourettes in the country, a touch of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and a whole lot of pent-up anger. She spent years depressed, suicidal, and wishing her differences away. Over time, she started looking at her life differently and turned her obstacles and challenges into the very fuel that propels her.

Schuller was recently named by The Jewish Week as one of the “36 under 36” changing the face of the Jewish community. Very few make being a proud Zionist, Jew and person living with disabilities so honest and funny. She memorized the audience with stories about being a Jew living in a non-Jewish school in Vermont and almost being thrown out of her apartment for sounding like the barking of a dog.

Pamela Schuller can be found:

Cindy Grosz can be found at

About the Author
Cindy Grosz is an accomplished activist for pro-Israel and Jewish interests. She writes about “Everything Jewish” and has appeared in multiple media outlets. She is a Contributor on The Jersey Joe Radio Show on WOR710AM, syndicated through iHeartRadio. Grosz is the author of Rubber Room Romance, Everything You Need to Know and Ask About the Education System. She can be reached at
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