Dr. Itzhak Siev-Ner: Caring for Israel’s Most Vulnerable
A Jewish Disabilities Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month Special Report
By Matt Robinson
Through a variety of initiatives, Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA) provides cutting-edge rehabilitative services, special education, and medical care for people with cognitive, sensory, communicative, developmental, and other disabilities in Israel.
This month, we recognize Jewish Disabilities Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month (JDAAIM). Accordingly, JNF-USA is highlighting the important contribution people with disabilities make to our communities as the organization continues to support programs that drive greater inclusion.
Throughout the month of February, JNF-USA is hosting numerous virtual events across the country to highlight JDAAIM, featuring representatives from JNF-USA affiliates and an incredible lineup of guest speakers. The goal of these events is to generate awareness of, and foster inclusion for people with disabilities and special needs, while also raising money to support JNF-USA’s disabilities-related initiatives — offering a $1 million contribution match to any gifts made during the month of February.
One of JNF-USA’s JDAAIM presenters, Dr. Itzhak (Tzaki) Siev-Ner, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation, was the keynote speaker at a JNF-USA Doctors for Israel lecture series on February 21. His presentation, “It Takes a Village: Caring for Israel’s Most Vulnerable,” gave participants insight into the vision, clinical work and research taking place at JNF-USA’s ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran Rehabilitation Hospital, where he serves as medical director.
Since 2004, Dr. Siev-Ner has served as chairman of the Israeli Society for Diabetic Foot and Wound Care as well as the Director of the Rehabilitation Division in the Israeli Ministry of Health since 2017. He has also held leadership roles with the Israel Medical Association. In these capacities, Dr. Siev-Ner has helped lead efforts to treat most of Israel’s war and terror casualties and provided long-term care for Israeli military veterans.
When asked what led him to become involved in supporting people with disabilities, the graduate of Ben-Gurion University explained how he studied medicine after completing his service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and sensing that “something was missing” in terms of how people with disabilities were being served, he soon found himself working in physical medicine and rehabilitation.
After serving as director of the orthopedic rehabilitation department at Sheba Medical Center, Dr. Siev-Ner was called by the Israeli Minister of Health to be director of the division of rehabilitation in the Ministry. Despite these impressive positions, Dr. Siev-Ner suggested that his most meaningful position may be that of medical director of the rehabilitation hospital at ADI Negev.
“We started with the very basic planning of the hospital, thinking about each and every component that we wanted to have in order to bring the cutting-edge rehabilitation to the people in the Negev,” said Dr. Siev-Ner. He also mentioned plans for further expansion of the hospital and village.
According to Dr. Siev-Ner, about 20% of the population in Israel has different kinds of disabilities including emotional, psychological, sensorial, and others. “This is a great percentage of the population and I think it is our responsibility to integrate them and to enable their full participation in life,” he said. This desire to support those who may need extra support is what inspires Dr. Siev-Ner to do so much for the disabled community.
While Dr. Siev-Ner emphasized the importance of and expressed gratitude for Jewish Disabilities Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month, he also encouraged people to support their neighbors who face extra challenges every single day and to be part of the “village” that helps them heal and prosper.
Through such support and through the technological and medical breakthroughs that he and his colleagues have been developing, Dr. Siev-Ner added, “we can give [disabled people] the highest level of independence so they will feel respected and equal to each and everyone in the society. This is our responsibility, and we should give them the best medical treatment.” The ongoing research, care, and treatment taking place at ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran is leading the world in the way that we approach realizing and enabling the potential of the most vulnerable members of our society, building a more inclusive future for everyone.