The Regional Center for Independent Living in the Galilee hosts the first blind judge of the U.S.A.

Judge Bernstein on the tandem bike

Richard H. Bernstein, Michigan Supreme Court Justice, arrived in the Galilee to enrich the Center's volunteers from his personal, inspirational experiences, and joined a tandem bike ride along the Jordan river, visiting heritage sites

 Thursday, August 4-th, at dusk, volunteers of the Regional Center for Independent Living in the Galilee set out for a year-end team activity. This year the activity, a group ride along the Jordan, was especially stirring: Richard Bernstein, the first ever blind judge in the U.S.A., arrived in Israel and decided to conclude his trip in the Galilee with visits to heritage sites and a tandem bike ride, with one rider sighted and one rider vision impaired or blind. Bernstein joined an existing group, Eyes for Two – a multisectoral team that includes Jews, Arabs, Druze, religious and secular, and an equally varied bunch of volunteer guides who accompany them. Thanks to the shared riding, the blind members take pleasure in outings that combine sport, social bonding and fun. For some of them, who have never enjoyed social activities, the shared rides have opened up a previously inaccessible world.

Judge Bernstein was hosted by the volunteers and operatives of The Regional Center for Independent Living in the Galilee, the northern branch of Access Israel, lead by Noga Sivan and Ofer Michaeli, in cooperation with "Israel Unlimited". The northern branch was created to address the need for independence and accessibility in an area where towns and villages are distant from one another and the urban space is segmented by the spectacular Galilean landscape. The people and operatives of the Regional Center for Independent Living in the Galilee initiate and run tens of activities, among them a theater and improv circle for the persons with mental disabilities, workshops for movement creativity and sculpture, and a sports and riding team for persons with a variety of disabilities. The Regional Center for Independent Living in the Galilee has forged a strong link with students of the Tel Hai Academic College who, together with young students and the Center members with disabilities, organize meeting venues, transportation and joint accessible recreation activities.


Picture: Judge Bernstein on the tandem bike



Mr. Bernstein arrived as the guest of the Access Israel organization. Besides being a lawyer and active judge on his state’s supreme court, he is also a marathoner and triathlete who has participated in 18 marathons, triathlons and ironman races. He dedicates his life to the integration of persons with disabilities into the world of employment, driven by employers gaining loyal workers motivated to succeed, rather than pity.

This isn’t Mr. Bernstein first visit to Israel. Last February, he ran the 10K race in the Tel Aviv marathon, together with an Israeli guide.

During his latest visit, the judge also participated in a conference of Accessibility Coordinators and spoke before jurists and lawyers at the Tel Aviv Magistrate Court. Before donning the cycling jersey he had time to visit a British mandate-era arms cache in Kfar Giladi and the Roaring Lion and Joseph Trumpeldor memorial at Tel Hai. After the bike ride, Mr. Bernstein retired for the night on Kibbutz Snir.

Yuval Wagner, president of the Access Israel organization: We’re deeply moved witnessing the engagement of an eminent person as Judge Bernstein with accessibility activities in Israel, and proud to enlist his help to promote our important objectives. Mr. Richard Bernstein leads an independent effort, much like the endeavors of Access Israel, and he’s living proof that joining well intentioned forces towards shared goals can always win. Meeting Judge Bernstein is inspiring and empowering. He’s struggling daily to achieve the goals he’s set for himself. As Supreme Judge he tries an eclectic mix of cases – homicide, rape, tax law, civilian tort. He commits to memory tens of case files every week, with their thousands of legal precedents, by having his special assistants read the material aloud, until he masters it.

Picture: Judge Bernstein and Noga Sivan at the Oz Crew memorial

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