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.

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