A young man with a special gift of reaching hearts

Ben Ben-Eliezer

Ben Ben-Eliezer 2002 –

Ben, the youngest of six children born to Eldad and Edna, has Down syndrome. When he was born, his mother, who has worked with disabled children, welcomed the prospect of raising him. But she admits that “Ben’s childhood was anything but easy. He was up every night, and had all sorts of food-related intolerances.”

As members of the Bruderhof, however, Ben’s parents were never on their own in caring for him and from early on, he was integrated with his peers. His father notes that “being included pushed Ben to succeed simply because he wanted to do what his classmates were doing. He had two therapists, and we visited them on occasion, but he always made the best progress when he was with his friends.”

At school, Ben learned to read and write, to hold a bat and kick a ball, and even to swim. One year a teacher helped him grow a prize-winning giant pumpkin. At thirteen, at his bar mitzvah – Ben’s grandfather (see his story) was Jewish, and the family has kept several traditions alive – he invited his entire class. After salmon, cake, a speech, and a Torah reading, Ben made a wish for world peace: “for all the bad guys to throw away their guns.”

Seventeen years after his birth, Ben’s parents are still in awe at the way he has enriched their lives. In Eldad’s words, “I’m a doctor, and society highly regards the expert advice and care that is associated with this profession – yet so often one feels powerless to change lives. Ben will never achieve academic success or vocational qualification. And yet his special gift to reach peoples’ hearts with his encouraging interest and genuine joy has impacted the lives of individuals far more than I ever will.”

Ben’s band leads the holiday singing.

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