Interview with Rabbi Kalman Samuels

By Kinue Tokudome

Rabbi Kalman Samuels is the Founder and President of Shalva, the Israel Association for the Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities.

The Japanese version of this article was published in the February 2021 issue of “Myrtos” magazine in Japan.

障がい者支援施設「シャルヴァ」 の夢: カルマン・サミュエルズ

Shalva National Center in Jerusalem

Tokudome: First of all, thank you very much for allowing me to translate your beautiful and inspirational memoir, Dreams Never Dreamed.

The book contains so many moving episodes—your awakening to Judaism while traveling to Israel as a college student from a secular family in Vancouver, marrying a very religious 18-year-old daughter of a Holocaust survivor, having your healthy 11-month-old son, Yossi, lose his vision and hearing because of faulty vaccination, your struggle to find a way to help Yossi, seeing the breakthrough in Yossi’s ability to communicate, the legal fight against those who were responsible for Yossi’s injury, opening and expanding of Shalva in spite of many obstacles along the way, being blessed with generous donors, and overseeing Shalva that has become a world-renowned center for children with disabilities and their families based on the philosophy of inclusion.

What kind of experience was it for you to write this book, revisiting all these episodes over the years, some of which were very painful?

Samuels: Several years after Yossi was injured, I found myself living in New York with a family of very young children and working long hours in the computer field to make a living.   My goal was to help my dear wife Malki with anything and everything I could do to ease her physical and emotional burdens. That included caring for the children before I left for the hour-long subway trip from Brooklyn to Manhattan each morning, and upon returning after 6 PM, spending time with each child and helping to put them to sleep.   After that, I required time to study and enhance my professional computer knowledge.

Malki had enormous pressure and responsibilities and I did not wish to add to her burdens with my thoughts and concerns.   So I began recording those thoughts and feelings in a late night diary, and in some way this was my therapy.  As Shalva developed I found myself sharing many of the stories with friends and donors and realized that they found them to be of great interest and most meaningful.

I finally decided to share the stories behind the Shalva story in an organized manner in book form.   It was a most challenging and trying experience to relive it all in great detail and organize it on paper but I am pleased that I wrote it.  

Courtesy of Shalva

Tokudome: Those who read this book find out that the real driving force behind Shalva is Malki, your wife. Was she also involved in the writing process for this book?

Samuels: Malki has always wanted to stay under the radar, far from the public eye.  My desire to write a book was extremely difficult for her because clearly, I would have to write about her, but she recognized how important it was for me and allowed me to write it.

I consulted with her on delicate topics but she has not read the book and probably never will.

Tokudome: People will be surprised to know that she has not read the book and that she will probably never will. But then, maybe we shouldn’t be. Although she contributed so much to Shalva’s remarkable accomplishments it never was for herself.

How about Yossi? How did he feel about your embarking on writing a book about him and Shalva?

Samuels: For Yossi the book was extremely important and he asked me constantly when I will finish and publish it because he wanted the world to know that “I was not born like this, I was born healthy and normal, seeing and hearing, but the faulty vaccine I received damaged me.” In addition, it was critical to him that the public understands that out of his breakthrough to communication, Shalva was established and is helping so many people in need.  In other words, his challenges have not been in vain.

Visiting President Goerge W. Bush (2006)

Tokudome: I am glad to know Yossi feels that way. You wrote, “Over the years, I have come to terms with the injury to my son and the resulting challenges that our entire family has had to face as a result…”  I was wondering how Yossi had dealt with his emotions when thinking about his injury. I can only imagine how hard it must have been. But like his mother, he finds meaning in helping others. That is beautiful.

When I visited you at Shalva in the fall of 2019, the Hebrew edition of this book had been just published and you kindly gave me an autographed copy. But I had to wait for the English edition to read it.

Since the publication of both editions, what kind of responses have you received? Did you receive any from prominent people?

Samuels: The English edition was published in May 2020 in the middle of Covid.  At the end of both editions it states “The author can be reached at” and I have been receiving reader comments almost daily.  

The President of Israel Reuven Ruby Rivlin was the first to respond when he kindly wrote “A touching and inspiring story, the most beautiful face of Israel.” Politicians, celebrities and people from every walk of life have responded, often with great emotion, that “I have just finished reading your book at one long sitting and feel I must write you….”  It seems to touch each reader deeply.

Tokudome: I noticed and read some reviews that mentioned the same thing, that you did not try to explain why you and Malki have been helping other families from your religious conviction.

Samuels: The book is entitled “Dreams Never Dreamed” and the publisher suggested that I change it from the passive tense to something like “Dream on” with a positive message.  I explained that I am not here to preach but rather to share the story behind the story and each reader will take from it whatever he or she finds meaningful.   For that reason, I didn’t address the matter of religious conviction head on.   It seems clear from the story told that religious conviction played into it strongly, but I left these matters for the reader to discern.

Tokudome: I think you succeeded in letting readers see your and Malki’s deep faith without explaining and preaching. And I am sure they also see a universal message in your book.

Samuels: Without a doubt I wanted it to be of meaning to all readers and so while I shared a number of stories that related to Jewish tradition, I left it at the cultural level, very much as I would expect from books I read that are based for example in India, Japan or China.  When such a book goes into too much cultural or religious detail, I lose interest and I wanted to avoid that.

Tokudome: Although your book is not about Israel’s recent history, your personal story is intertwined with some of the tragic events that affected Israeli society as a whole, such as the kidnapping and killing of Nachshon Wachsman by Hamas and the Sbarro Pizza bombing. What do you want the Japanese readers to learn when they read the chapters where you described those tragedies?

Samuels: The tragic stories are shared because they are an essential part of the narrative about my and Shalva’s development, and not as a political statement.  I do hope that the reader will understand that Israel is not Switzerland and we are not blessed with a perfectly pristine existence, but rather we must also cope with murderous terrorists who seek our destruction and sadly sometimes succeed. 

Tokudome: Now that many people in the Arab world get to know more about Israeli society, I think a place like Shalva that gives equal access and opportunity to all participants regardless of religion, ethnic background, or financial capability can send a very positive message to the Arab world. Any thoughts on this?

Samuels: Shalva has always shared its hard earned knowledge and experience with professionals and centers around the world.  With the signing of the recent Abraham Peace Accords, Shalva is in contact with our counterparts in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and we are developing programs to help one another.  This process is putting real human relationships into the framework of the accords.

Tokudome: That’s very encouraging. When nations help one another in their efforts to take care of their children with disabilities, I believe they can forge true solidarity.

What do you want Japanese readers to walk away with after reading your book, especially on their views toward people with disabilities within their society?

Samuels: I would hope that readers will gain a deeper awareness and sensitivity to the subject of disability, as it relates to the individual with the disability as well as how it relates to the loving family and caregivers.   We all have disabilities that we cope with but some are unfortunately more severe and more visible.  We all hope and pray that each of our children, different as they may be from one another, will be able to live productive loving lives.  My hope is that the reader will learn to extend that attitude and care toward families who share the same dream, but need support from society and good people to achieve it. 

Tokudome: Thank you. As someone who had the honor of translating your book, that is also what I would hope.

Lastly, I read that Yossi said that he would like to visit Japan. Is there such a possibility?

Samuels: Yossi has always dreamed of visiting Japan.  He has been quite successful in realizing his dreams so let us hope that Covid will soon be part of history and we can entertain the exciting thought of Yossi realizing another dream and visiting Japan.

The author with Rabbi Kalman Samuels




 Rabbi Abraham Cooper,  Kinue Tokudome,  Ted Gover


日本は30年近くにわたり、ヨルダン川西岸とガザのパレスチナの人々への経済的・社会的開発援助を通じ、中東で重要な役割を果たしてきました。 1993年以来、日本は、農業・経済開発・難民支援・医療サービスを促進するパレスチナのプログラムに、$1.7 billion(約1,800憶円)以上を惜しみなく寄付してきています。


さらに安倍首相のリーダーシップの下、日本は、イスラエルの人々への経済的および地政学的関与を拡大しました。 2015年に安倍首相がイスラエルのヤドヴァシェムホロコースト記念館で行った歴史的なスピーチは、日本と世界中のユダヤ人コミュニティとの間の信頼を高め、日本が中東においてさらに大きく、よりバランスの取れた役割を果たす契機となりました。



















徳留絹枝は「ユダヤ人と日本  Jews and Japan (@JewsandJapan) 」の管理者

オリジナルはAsia Times に掲載

Dreams Never Dreamed


この本は、昨年エルサレムに訪問しインタビューさせて頂いたカルマン・サミュエルズ師が、世界最大級の障がい児施設 Shalva を開設するまでの体験を綴った著書です。



障がい児施設 Shalva を訪ねて


今年5月、テルアビブで開催された国際歌謡コンテスト「ユーロビジョン」で、障がいを持つ若者で構成された Shalva Band が世界中の人々を感激させた。(コンテストを勝ち抜いていたが、リハーサルが安息日にかかり辞退。セミファイナルに特別出演した。)

Shalva Band は、エルサレムにある障がい児施設 Shalva のミュージックセラピーの一環として結成された。今ではイスラエル国内はもちろん、世界の場で演奏する人気グループに成長した。Shalvaは、ヘブライ語で「心の平安」を意味する。

1990年、たった6人の障がい児のためにスタートした Shalva は、今や、知的・身体障がいを持つゼロ歳児から成人まで二千人に、多岐にわたるサービスを提供する世界最大の施設になった。親を対象としたプログラムもあり、障がいを持って生まれた子供の育児に戸惑う親に希望を与えることを目指す。幼稚園プログラムは、教育者・ソーシャルワーカー・セラピストが一緒に作り上げるクラスで、健常児との交流もある。学童児の放課後リハビリ・レクリエーションクラスは、スポーツ・ドラマ・アート・音楽・水泳など、施設内のコートやプールを利用してのプログラムだ。そして青少年に達した者には、調理師などへの職業訓練を提供する。(訪問時に私がお茶を頂いた喫茶店でも卒業生が働いていた。)各種セラピーは、最新の学術的成果を取り入れた内容で、研究者にとってもフィールドワークの場になっているという。

Shalva 設立者のカルマン・サミュエルズ師にお話しを伺った。








2005年、イスラエル政府が私に相談に来ました。国が7エーカー(東京ドームの6割の広さ)の土地を提供するので、私たちが続けて来たプログラムをさらに多くの子供に提供して欲しいというのです。それで私たちは新しい Shalva センター建設に取り組むことになりました。国は10憶円の建築費用を出してくれましたが、残りの55億円はファンドレイジングしなければなりませんでした。また隣接するホテルが障がい児の施設建設に反対し、その問題を解決するのに5年もかかり、結局完成したのは10年後でした。

妻と私が何より目指したのは、inclusion という思想です。Shalva のサービスは、基本的に申し込み順で無料提供され、人種・宗教・家族の経済状況などによる差別は全くありません。裕福な家庭は任意で寄付をすることができますが、それによって彼らの子供を特別扱いすることはしません。

Shalva では今400人の職員が働き、この種の施設では世界最大です。世界から毎年5万人の見学者がやってきます。






サミュエルズ夫妻の固い信念の実現には、世界のユダヤ人コミュニティからの支援があった。彼の故郷バンクーバーのユダヤ人篤志家や、ロサンゼルスのサイモン・ウィーゼンタール・センター(SWC)理事夫妻が、これまで多額の寄付をしてきたという。現在は世界各地に Shalva の支援団体があり、その活動を支えている。

因みに今回のインタビューは、SWC  副所長エブラハム・クーパー師にアレンジして貰ったのだが、サミュエルズ師と SWC 設立者所長マーヴィン・ハイヤー師との繋がりは50年以上も前に遡るのだという。バンクーバーのシナゴーグに着任したばかりの20代の若いラビだったハイヤー師が、初めてバーミツバ(ユダヤ人男子が13歳になった時の儀式)を司ったのが、サミュエルズ少年だったからだ。

クーパー師は昨年、バーレーンの宗教指導者グループを Shalva に案内している。アラブ国からの正式訪問団として初めてイスラエルを訪れた一行は、Shalva の子供たちの明るさとスタッフの献身に感動して帰ったという。


インタビューが終わると、サミュエルズ師は、つい数日前に出たばかりだという彼の著書『Dreams Never Dreamed』を下さり、私がヘブライ語を読めないことを知りながらも、記念に受け取って欲しいと言った。英語版は来年初めに出るそうだが、日本でもShalvaの活動が知られ、障がい児教育に関心を持つ人々が訪問するようになって欲しい。

                             Shalva設立者 カルマン・サミュエルズ師と筆者 

*この記事を書いた後、Shalva  Band は米国に演奏旅行に行きトランプ大統領のためにも歌いました。

Hate Crimes against Asian Americans in the Coronavirus Crisis: Lessons for Japan

Kinue Tokudome

The Japanese original was published on Ronza, April 20, 2020 

As most of us in the US are now required to stay at home because of the coronavirus, I have more opportunity to speak with some of my friends who are normally very busy. Recently, I spoke with Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda of the Simon Wiesenthal Center via Zoom.

Our conversation inevitably turned to the coronavirus and how it was affecting our lives. After sharing each other’s family situation under the restriction, we talked about anti-Asian American incidents that were happening with the spread of the coronavirus across the US. In less than a month, many things happened:

On March 18th, President Trump was challenged by a reporter during a White House press conference as to why he kept using the term “the Chinese virus” which many people complained as racist. He responded, “It’s not racist at all. It comes from China, that’s why. I want to be accurate.”

He also mentioned that a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson who tweeted in the previous week, “It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan.” President Trump declared, “That can’t happen…It comes from China.”

Yet on March 23rd, President Trump tweeted, “It is very important that we totally protect our Asian American community in the United States…the spreading of the Virus is NOT their fault in any way, shape, or form. They are working closely with us to get rid of it. WE WILL PREVAIL TOGETHER!”

A group of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders’ organizations created a website, “Stop AAPI Hate,” in mid-March and have been monitoring anti-Asian hate crimes. Those who experienced harassments or physical attacks could report to this site not only in English but in Chinese, Korean, Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, and some other Asian languages. It received 1,135 reports in two weeks. They ranged from verbal attacks like “Go back to China!” to physical attacks like being pushed or being sprayed disinfectant, and various forms of vandalism. Hate speech on the Internet was also reported. The most serious incident took place when a 19-year-old man in Texas stabbed a Chinese family with two young children, saying that they were spreading the virus. This incident led the FBI to issue a warning that “hate crime incidents against Asian Americans likely will surge across the United States, due to the spread of coronavirus disease…endangering Asian American communities.”

On March 25th, Congresswoman Grace Meng, representing the Queens area in New York where many Asian Americans, especially Chinese Americans, live, introduced a resolution, “Condemning all forms of anti-Asian sentiment as related to COVID-19.” (COVID-19 is the official name decided by WHO.)

The resolution calls for, among other things, “All public officials to condemn and denounce any and all anti-Asian sentiment in any form” and “Federal law enforcement officials, working with State and local officials, to expeditiously investigate and document all credible reports of hate crimes, incidents, and threats against the Asian-American community in the United States.”

As Rabbi Cooper had decades of experience of combatting anti-Semitic hate crimes, both in the real world and on the Internet, I asked him how he was assessing the current situation and if there were any lessons for Japanese people.

He asked me if I had watched Bill Maher’s recent commentary on “the Chinese virus.” Bill Maher is a political commentator and TV host. I happened to have watched that commentary. Although Bill Maher is hardly a Trump supporter, he nonetheless agreed with President Trump that we should call the coronavirus as “the Chinese virus.” Bill Maher explained:

Scientists, who are generally pretty liberal, have been naming diseases after the places they came from for a very long time… Zika is from the Zika Forest, Ebola from the Ebola River, hantavirus the Hantan River… here’s the West Nile virus and Guinea worm and Rocky Mountain spotted fever and, of course, the Spanish flu… no one blogs about it. So why should China get a pass?

This is about facts. It’s about life and death. We’re barely four months into this pandemic, and the wet markets in China — the ones where exotic animals are sold and consumed — are already starting to reopen…

Sorry, Americans. We’re going to have to ask you to keep two ideas in your head at the same time: This has nothing to do with Asian Americans, and it has everything to do with China…We can’t afford the luxury anymore of non-judginess towards a country with habits that kill millions of people everywhere.

Rabbi Cooper said that he believed most Americans would agree with Bill Maher’s commentary. He then shared his thoughts.

“We only have to look at the heroic actions of first-responders, health care professionals, charities, and community volunteers during the coronavirus pandemic to remind us that crises can bring out the best traits in our fellow Americans. Sadly, however, they can also bring out the worst. That is why we need to remain vigilant to fight hate, conspiracies, and scapegoating.

“While it’s clear the Chinese government covered up key information about the coronavirus’ initial outbreak in Wuhan, we need to remember that it is the people of China who were the first victims of this policy.

“During the Black Plague in Europe in the Middle Ages, Jewish people were scapegoated and killed mercilessly by fanatics across the continent. Over 600 entire Jewish communities were destroyed. Many killers claimed that Jews had poisoned wells to spread the plague, or that the plague was a Jewish plot to decimate Christian communities. Never mind that Jews died in horrific numbers during the plague as well. Sadly, modern anti-Semites are right now on the Internet weaving similarly insane conspiracy theories blaming Jews for spreading coronavirus.

“We all must reject any and all efforts seeking to conflate justified anger at the Chinese communist government with anger towards Asian-Americans. We should never blame immigrants from Asia or any country for the actions of a foreign government they have no control over.

“And we must reject the anti-Semites who are always lurking for times of crisis, anger, and uncertainty to spread their cancerous hatred of Jews.

“So, moving forward, people in Japan, in the US, and around the world have an obligation to differentiate between a communist regime and the people of China. Otherwise, the concerns and anger will be taken out on the wrong target and Beijing will evade their global responsibilities.

“Secondly, the World Health Organization chief is in Beijing’s back pocket. If the WHO is to survive, he needs to be removed. He did not demand that the Chinese government provide an accurate and full account of the coronavirus outbreak when it first occurred in Wuhan. He was also reluctant to declare the situation as a pandemic. This situation presents Japan an opportunity—which I am certain the Foreign Ministry will not take— to demand accountability for its financial contributions to the WHO.  (On April 14, President Trump announced that the US would suspend its funding to WHO while it reviews the agency’s response to the coronavirus pandemics.)

“As for anti-Chinese hate speech on the Internet, the Simon Wiesenthal Center can help. I want Japanese people who find such postings to send us links to and we will immediately forward to social media companies to pressure for its removal, the same procedure we follow for any threatening online hate postings. We just turned over a list of some 45 channels on social media platforms to US Attorney General Barr and US Homeland Security officials, that promote lurid conspiracy theories linking Jews to the pandemic.

“The bottom line is that it is not a hate crime to strongly criticize the Chinese government for their irresponsible behavior that put health of the people around the world at risk. Citizens in democracies have the right and obligation to express their opinions.”

The Japanese media have been reporting on the alarming increase of anti-Asian American hate crimes in the US since the spread of coronavirus there. But it is not a simple issue as Bill Maher’s commentary illustrated. According to a recent Harris Poll, 52% of American people agreed with President Trump’s calling the virus, “the Chinese virus.” The House resolution against anti-Asian hate crimes, whose 144 co-sponsors are all Democrats except one, has not been debated yet.

In addition, as some mainstream media in the last few days have been reporting in detail how the Chinese government hid crucial information in the early stage of the coronavirus outbreak, Rabbi Cooper’s warning on the importance of distinguishing legitimate protest against the Chinese government and hate crime is even more important now.

Japan has a history of discriminating against the very people who suffered diseases. Will the fight against coronavirus bring out the best traits in Japanese people or bring out the worst? I sincerely hope it will be the former.


エブラハム・クーパー師 (通訳:徳留絹枝)

2000年2月17日 衆議院第二議員会館