There was a kvell-factor at Kisharon’s 40th anniversary dinner when Talya Jacobson, 21, the eldest daughter of Kisharon Chief Executive Dr Beverley Jacobson and husband Alan, addressed a 700-strong crowd at the Park Lane Hilton on Sunday 22 May. Talya, who has cerebral palsy, a severe visual impairment and learning difficulties, decided to make her maiden speech only that morning – as a result the evening raised a record £1,007,500 for the special educational needs charity.
“When I was very little I had meningitis and my family thought I couldn’t walk or talk – but look at me now,” said Miss Jacobson. “I am living in a flat independently, thanks to Kisharon. I like to collect money to help others so tonight I want to ask all of you to give money to help other people like me.”
Endorsements for Kisharon’s work came from guest speaker Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks and Israeli Ambassador, Mark Regev.
Rabbi Sacks noted the “whole world has gone entirely mad… and that is why we have to remind us what humanity really is about, what sanity is, what spirituality is about – you just have to set foot within the doors of Kisharon because that is quite sufficient to restore your faith in humanity and what really matters… Every time I’ve been there was moving, humbling and profoundly uplifting. So let us salute and applaud Beverley Jacobson and her incredible team of professionals.”
Ambassador Regev made a L’Chayim to Kisharon and the President of the State of Israel. “I know that you are representing the finest principles, the finest teachings, that Judaism is all about. That we are supporting Kisharon – the talent, the capabilities of those people we have to help – and there is no better business. I am proud that Leo (Noe) asked me to come. I am proud to be part of this event and Kisharon’s important work.”
Kisharon’s longest-serving employee Hazel Irving, made the toast to Her Majesty the Queen.
Guests saw a video of Kisharon’s visionary founder Chava Lehman, now in her 85th year and living in Jerusalem. With encouragement from the late Lord and Lady Jacobovits, the school opened in two rented rooms on the Finchley Road in 1976.
A new Kisharon film showed the shift in attitudes toward people with learning disabilities over 40 years – filmed in an empty building in Liverpool which used be an asylum and still containing old machinery to give electric shock treatments. “Years ago, if you were born with a learning disability you were kept behind closed doors, or in an institution such as this,” explains Chief Executive Dr Beverley Jacobson.
Eyes turned to the stage when people supported by Kisharon joined American rapper Nissim Black for an A cappella routine. Mr Black, who is an orthodox convert, embraced Judaism after his son contracted meningitis. “If you want to know about service to G-d, work with special needs kids,” he told the audience, referring to his two years spent working with those with learning disabilities.
Kisharon chairman Philip Goldberg said: “I was almost speechless to learn that we have raised over one million pounds – this is a landmark in Kisharon’s history. Thank you to everyone involved in making this brilliant event happen. It is incredible to think of how many people with learning disabilities have been supported by Kisharon over an entire generation and the huge progress they have made.”
See the Kisharon Dinner Film 2016