An Israeli electronics recycling factory is providing jobs for special needs and disabled employees and helping the environment at the same time.

According to Rambam, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” The E-community Group which operates an electronic waste recycling factory in Karmiel is doing just that, by hiring a full staff of disabled Israeli adults and giving them jobs which allow them to lead self-sufficient lives.

E-community founder and CEO Danny Kogen’s son was born with special needs. Kogen explained, “I wanted him to know what would be waiting for him in each phase of life, age 5 or 15. I discovered that in Israel there are good solutions until the age of 21. I’d like that after the age of 21 that my son could have a field of work that he could be part of. The whole world is talking about recycling. I found a field that is also economic, electronic recycling. This is how I began on the project about electronic recycling for the special needs community.”

Ira Caplan, E-community’s liaison to the United States, emphasized that for disabled people, taking apart an electronic circuit could be therapeutic. It also gives disabled people a means to support themselves. “Through the needs of his son, Kogen came to understand a gift that many special- needs kids have. These people are part of us and they bring us a lot of strength,” Caplan said. With E- Community Group, Kogen combines his passion for integrating disabled adults into Israeli society with “the need “to transform electronic waste from an ecological hazard to a natural asset.”

Employees at E-Community are grateful for Kogen’s eneterprise. One E-community worker said, “I had a stroke at the age of 47, seven years ago. I was in my home for a year for recuperation and after that I decided to get back to work. My condition is that I only have one arm that functions and I want to go back to a regular activity. That is what made me learn it. Taking apart computers isn’t complicated.” Not only stroke survivors, but people with many other sorts of disabilities, such as autism, downs syndrome, ADD, or ADHD, also work for the E-Community Group.

Israel, as a Jewish state committed to values such as Tikkun Olam, known in English as repairing the world, goes out of her way to provide work opportunities for disabled Israelis. The Israel Defense Forces allows for disabled Israelis to serve, so that they will have the same opportunity to contribute to the state that the rest of Israeli society has. Many shopping malls have businesses selling items made and sold by disabled Israelis. Aroma, a major café in Israel similar to Starbucks, hires disabled people to be bus boys. Caplan told the Jerusalem post about E-Community Group, “Our business is recycling electric waste and our mission is employing the special needs population.”

By Rachel Avraham, staff writer for United With Israel