Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Israeli handicapped activists block traffic in a demonstration, July 16, 2018.

Four of Israel’s five major television broadcasting and production companies have signed a new pledge, spearheaded by the Ruderman Family Foundation, to audition actors with disabilities with each new studio production.

In their pledges — which the Foundation initiated in collaboration with the Gesher Multicultural Film Fund and the Israeli Directors Guild — KAN, RESHET, HOT, and YES have also committed to a more inclusive selection process for all jobs across the film industry, on and off the screen.

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The pledge is a continuation of a similar one the Foundation circulated in Hollywood which brought CBS Entertainment, NBC Universal, Paramount Pictures, and Sony Pictures Entertainment all together in the commitment of promoting more inclusive and authentic representation in the American film industry.

The four Israeli companies came together for an event the Foundation hosted, celebrating their pledge as well as their broader commitment to fostering authentic representation (the practice of casting an actor with a disability in a role that portrays the same disability) in the Israeli entertainment industry.

At the event, Eldad Koblentz, the CEO of KAN, the Public Broadcasting Corporation, hailed the pledge as progress toward diversity but said that this is only a first step in a very long journey toward inclusion.

This initiative hit close to home for Hili Tropper, Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sport, whose sister uses a wheelchair. Tropper praised the pledge as a measure of a truly reformed society where everyone can perform to the best of their ability regardless of any physical or mental barriers they may have.

A recent poll commissioned by the Ruderman Family Foundation, the Gesher Multicultural Film Fund, and the Israeli Directors Guild found that 70 percent of Israelis consider the authentic representation of people with disabilities in entertainment to be an important issue, with 91 percent of respondents reporting that they would be less willing to watch a film or show if the production’s casting practices are not inclusive. The survey, conducted by IPANEL, also found that 86 percent of Israelis believe government intervention is needed to address gaps in authentic representation on screen. 71 percent of Israelis feel that the authentic representation of people with disabilities is “very low to nonexistent” in Israel’s film industry.

“Even though in the last year more authentic representation of actors with disabilities can be seen on screen in Israel, most productions remain inaccessible, and many actors as well as off-screen professionals give up in advance on their dreams of acting and working in the industry,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “Therefore, it is extremely encouraging to see four of Israel’s major production companies make this commitment to bringing about a more inclusive film industry that offers far more opportunities to people with disabilities. These companies have now become powerful changemakers by affirming that they will no longer tolerate discriminatory practices in their midst.”

Ziv Naveh, CEO & Artistic Director of the Gesher Multicultural Film Fund, which specializes in promoting filmmakers the integration of people with disabilities in the industry said that the “campaign is a call for awakening and action. Some talented people have become transparent despite their abilities and skills. As part of an industry that creates content for the screen, we are well placed to influence and make a change. The small effort required of us will yield great benefit not only to the community of people with disabilities but to Israeli society as a whole”

Meanwhile, Roei Alba, CEO of the Directors Guild, applauded the Foundation’s pledge in “its ability to anchor the willingness of entities to mobilize for the inclusion of people with disabilities in the film and television industry.”

“The pledge promotes and encourages equal employment in all the professions on set – creators, actors, production people, etc. We greatly appreciate the entities that have chosen to sign the pledge and take an active part in the social change on the issue of inclusion of people with disabilities into the film and television industry in Israel,” he added.

Over the past five years, the Ruderman Family Foundation has spearheaded a campaign to ensure Hollywood becomes a more inclusive industry for people with disabilities, and last year awarded a $1 million grant to the Academy Foundation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to advance its diversity and inclusion efforts.

In addition to receiving the support of major Hollywood studios and organizations, a separate Foundation-initiated pledge was signed by a host of A-list actors and directors which called on studio, production, and network executives to pledge to create more opportunities for people with disabilities. Among those who signed the pledge were Oscar winners George Clooney and Joaquin Phoenix, Oscar nominees Ed Norton, Bryan Cranston, and Mark Ruffalo, actors Glenn Close and Eva Longoria, and Oscar-winning director Peter Farrelly.

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