Help Me Walk – CoolCantor
I love dogs and I want to make dog part of my bar mitzvah. This is what my online bar mitzvah student told me as he decided to study with me. We spoke about how at CoolCantor, the eduction is not just about learning to sing a Torah portion and other prayers. It’s about social action and a mitzvah project. My student was thrilled to learn that at Hebrew school we was set up for success with learning how to read the Hebrew language. And with me , we would easily explore the singing of his Torah portion and then dive into a social action project. My student did some research and came up with Israel Guide Dog Centre.
The Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind (IGDCB) began as a dream of a young paratrooper in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). A lifelong animal lover, Noach Braun trained dogs in the IDF for military purposes.
When Noach left the military, he dreamed of continuing to work with animals—but only for man’s greater good. To his surprise, Noach discovered that there was no guide dog school in Israel. There had been a woman who trained guide dogs in the 1960’s named Dr. Rudolphina Menzl however, when she passed away, the program was abandoned. Noach decided to make it his life’s mission to reestablish a guide dog school in Israel—so all blind or visually impaired Israelis could obtain the mobility, independence and companionship that only a guide dog can provide.Prior to opening our center in 1991, a visually impaired Israeli had to go to Jerusalem to pass an English test. If they understood English well enough, they were then sent to the USA or UK for a month of instruction with a guide dog. Not only was this hard on their families, but the dogs were not trained to handle obstacles and challenges found only in Israel—traffic circles, cars parked on sidewalks, security barriers, aggressive drivers, warning sirens and other issues that simply do not exist in other countries. Plus, the dogs were trained in English, not Hebrew.
When we match a guide dog with a visually impaired person, we call it a “Partnership.” But Noach would never have realized his dream without creating other partnerships as well. “I was lucky to meet Norman Leventhal, and many other people who have joined together to make this center a reality.”
The two met at the home of the Leventhal family in Pennsylvania on the first night of Hanukah in 1986. Norman was immediately drawn to Noach’s vision of establishing a guide dog school in Israel, and paved the way for Noach to study to become a guide dog trainer. At the same time Noach’s wife Orna began studying dog breeding. After they completed their studies in the United States Noach and Orna traveled to Great Britain, where they completed their studies. In 1991 they returned to Israel to establish the Israel Guide Dog Center.
The center began operating from a rented house in Kfar Yedidiah, a moshav near Netanya. Two dogs were donated and trained by Noach, and the first blind clients trained with their dogs while living in Noach and Orna’s home. A guide dog school in the United States donated two breeding females, and the first breeding stock was established.
In 1994 a plot of agricultural land was purchased near Moshav Beit Oved, and the Israel Guide Dog Center moved to its present location. The first kennels were built and trailer homes were purchased to provide housing for the center’s administrative offices and lodging for clients. In 2001 a generous contribution by Lady Elizabeth Kaye of London enabled the construction of the purpose-built accessible building that now houses the center’s offices, student guest rooms, and other facilities.