Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia Helps Israel’s Hilma: Tech for Impact Serve Those With Disabilities

Students as part of Hilma work on technological projects. Courtesy of Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia

Israel has always been known as a start-up nation. Inventions like Waze, the PillCam, the SodaStream and so many more have cemented the country’s place as a leader in technology and cybersecurity.

However, Israel has also been making large headways into the sphere of disability accommodations. One of the organizations leading this charge is Hilma: Tech for Impact, a nongovernmental organization that provides quality professional training for young individuals who would otherwise not have access to the country’s blooming high-tech industries.

For Hilma, the social benefits of their programming are two-fold: through their Carmel 6000 program, a grantee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, they offer specialized technological training and work experience to young Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox women. Through this experience, they create technological solutions for Israel’s vulnerable and marginalized communities, including the elderly, people with disabilities, immigrants and others.

“Creating technology for individuals with disabilities is not just about meeting specific needs; it’s about fostering a more inclusive, equal, and socially responsible tech landscape, and positioning Israel as a leader in this important area of technological innovation,” said Michal Ophir, Hilma’s co-founder and CEO.

Recently, the organization has created four new technological accommodations for those with disabilities: Songo, Let’s Talk, What’s My Schedule and Metaksherim.

Songo encourages children with physical disabilities to move, walk and ride by incorporating an appealing soundtrack into their exercise routine. Let’s Talk is a communication application tailored to individuals dealing with aphasia, which is the inability to speak or understand spoken language as a result of brain damage.

What’s My Schedule displays the daily schedules of residents in group homes, providing them with an effective information management system. And Metaksherim is a picture-based communication board, allowing individuals unable to communicate verbally to express their wants and needs through symbols.

These inventions are already being used at schools, hospitals and nonprofit organizations around Israel.

“I first got involved with Hilma in order to help others,” said Chana Ginsberg, a participant in the Carmel 6000 program who worked as a developer, and later a team leader, on the Metaksherim project. Most of the women in the program aided the creation and development of these four inventions. “I wanted to create interfaces that would reach many people and improve their quality of care. In turn, this program gave me a space to work on new personal skills, including leadership.”

According to Ophir, developing the students’ skills and perspectives is a major goal of the program.

“In addition to the assistance afforded to end-users, those who participate in Hilma’s training program benefit tremendously,” she said. “Beyond their professional growth, trainees develop a deeper understanding of critical needs that exist within societies. They learn to see beyond their own abilities and gain an appreciation for others’ unique qualities and limitations.”

To support the professional development of these young women and their work toward greater disability inclusion, the Jewish Federation awarded a three-year grant of $90,000 to Hilma’s Carmel 6000 program.

“The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia is playing a vital role in supporting our students,” Ophir said. “Thanks to the Jewish Federation’s support, these young women, many of whom have faced more challenges than the average young adult, are set up for successful careers and bright futures, and are provided with a keen sense of social awareness.”

Due to the war in Israel, the need for awareness of the challenges that people with disabilities face is becoming increasingly urgent. Many Israelis have suffered physical and emotional trauma and now need accommodations like the ones Hilma is helping to invent.
Since Oct. 7, the Jewish Federation has raised more than $15.5 million and allocated more than $11.6 million to emergency aid in Israel. In addition, the Jewish Federation granted nearly $1 million from the Jewish Community Fund – the Jewish Federation’s main source of unrestricted dollars that go toward areas of greatest need – to local and international organizations focused on disability inclusion and trauma support this year.

“It is important, now more than ever, to help those in our community who need extra support, and to ensure that everyone is cared for during these dark times,” noted Tali Lidar, the Jewish Federation’s director of Israel and global operations who is based in Israel. “The fact that the Jewish Federation has a team on the ground in Israel, one that has been in place for over 25 years, allows us to understand which needs are most pressing and how we can best allocate funds to support them. Israel is making great progress towards disability accommodations, and we want to see those projects flourish.”

Carmel 6000 participant Ginsberg echoed these sentiments of inclusion and believes in supporting its progress by investing in technology.

“With the advancement of technology comes so much potential to do good,” she explained. “It has the ability to enhance our lives, automate certain tasks and make things more efficient. I believe that the people most fit to receive these technological advancements first are those who might need more help with everyday tasks.”

You can help support organizations like Hilma and disability inclusion by donating to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia at


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