Kalman Samuels received the titles of Honorary Doctor of Philosophy from Bar-Ilan University and Esteemed Fellow from the Ruppin Academic Center for his monumental contributions to the field of disability care and inclusion through the Shalva organization which he founded with his wife Malki in 1990.
Born in Vancouver, Canada where he attended the University of British Columbia, Kalman moved to Israel in the 1970’s. Tragedy hit his family when his second child named Yossi was injured during his infancy and rendered blind and deaf among other disabilities. Inspired by their son’s communication breakthrough at the age of eight, Kalman and his wife Malki established Shalva to support other children and families in similar situations. Over the past three decades, the organization has played a significant role in shaping Israel’s social policies regarding disability services.
What began as an afternoon program for eight local children in the Samuels’ home developed to become one of the largest centers for disability care in the world, serving the entire spectrum of Israeli society. Today Shalva operates a host of programs and services annually for 2,000 individuals with disabilities and their families; including therapies, inclusive preschools, recreational programs, vocational training, independent living, respite, and family support. The Shalva National Center in Jerusalem is visited by nearly 200,000 people from Israel and around the world every year; arriving as part of educational tours or to take part in Shalva’s community events and social enterprises. Delegations from governments and universities come to Shalva to learn about the organization’s successful therapy methodologies. The Shalva Band, comprised of talented musicians with disabilities, performed as guest artists at the international Eurovision Song Contest semi-finals with a moving performance that was widely celebrated by thousands of media outlets across the globe.
“The Shalva organization, headed by Kalman Samuels, is an organization that built a warm and welcoming home for people with disabilities. A home that strengthens and empowers. I think that empowerment is the most important description, conducted in such significant and meaningful ways,” said Arie Zaban, President of Bar-Ilan University as he addressed Samuels at the award ceremony amid an applauding audience. “We thank you Kalman.”
The Esteemed Fellowship honor was awarded by the Ruppin Academic Center to the Shalva organization as a whole, “For its longstanding work in progressing a social vision, based on aspirations for the full inclusion of people with disabilities in society… for advancing the concept that every person deserves an equal opportunity to thrive, develop, and succeed in the world.” The award was presented to Shalva Founders Kalman and Malki Samuels, CEO Yochanan Samuels and Chairman Avi Samuels.
Kalman Samuels’ prestigious honors are among many accolades received over the years for his life’s work to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities and their families. Most recently, in 2018, Samuels was awarded the Sylvan Adams Nefesh B’Nefesh Bonei Zion Prize and the Lions International Israel’s Man of the Year Award. Also in 2018, the Shalva organization received consultative status to the United Nations to provide global guidance and support concerning disability rights, care, and inclusion.