Issuu on Google+

Supplement to Jewish Action

the yachad magazine • 2014

national jewish council for disabilities


YACHAD EXECUTIVE TEAM Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman

International Director

Eli Hagler

Associate Director

Ken Saibel

Director, Institutional Advancement

Deborah Berman

Director, Social Work

Dr. Joe Goldfarb

Director, Summer Programs

Andrea Borah

Director, National Yachad

Jack Gourdji

Executive Director, Jewish Union Foundation

YACHAD NATIONAL BOARD Aaron Kinderlehrer, Chairman Dr. Giti Bendheim Joseph Bensmihen Martin Bienstock Rabbi Dovid Cohen Alan Forman Dr. Mark Freilich Dr. Jimmy Hain Dr. Avi Jacobs Ira Kellman

A MESSAGE FROM OUR ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR

Dr. Isaac Klein Elaine Cohen-Liebman Atara Mauskopf Howard Suss Esther Schlanger Steven Spira Gary Snitow Dr. Tzochi Rosman

YACHAD NY/NJ PROGRAMMING Nicole Bodner Director, New York Yachad Chani Herrmann

Director, New Jersey Yachad

Michael Adler

Program Director, Rayim Yachad

David Weintraub

Program Director, Senior Yachad

Ron Hirschhorn

Program Director, Junior Yachad

Rebecca Schrag

Director, School & Community Programming

YACHAD REGIONAL LEADERSHIP Deborah Rockoff

Director, National Programs

Ahuva Stern

Administrator, National Programs

Batya Jacob

Director, Educational Support Services

Rabbi Eliezer Lederfeind National Director, Our Way

NATIONAL CHAPTERS Baltimore, MD

Mira Labovitz

Chicago, IL

Efrem Popel

Cleveland, OH

Sarah Cooperman

Dallas, TX

Rabbi Sandy Schulkes

Denver, CO

Emily Kieval

Detroit, MI

Jeff Lazar

Houston, TX

Elisheva Levitt

Los Angeles, CA

Orit Faguet

New England

Liz Offen

Omaha, NE

Karen Gustafson

South Florida

Denise Herschberg

St. Louis, MO

Debbie Garbow

Toronto, ON, Canada

Devorah Marmer

Israel

Lisa Galinsky, Yoel Sterman

Last year, a local New Jersey newspaper wrote that Yachad is “the best kept secret.” Well, the secret is out! Yachad is booming, experiencing tremendous growth in virtually every department – and the Jewish community at large has started to notice! One of our most powerful methods for raising inclusion awareness has been our famous Shabbatonim (weekend retreats) which bring Yachad members (children and adults with disabilities) together with typically developing peers and staff to a community for Shabbat. Each and every year there are more and more synagogues and communities requesting a Yachad Shabbaton. And the reason for that is that it’s often the community members themselves who benefit more from our program than anyone else. To see someone who looks or speaks differently than you called to the Torah for an aliyah, give a dvar Torah or lead the prayer services is eye opening! And it is uplifting on many levels, too, for it underscores both the diversity and unity of Klal Yisrael. Similarly, through our summer programs Yachad educates and influences each and every camper and staff member across the twenty-two different summer programs in which we operate. This exposure allows us to affect thousands of campers at an age when they are learning and growing each and every day. And this is exactly the aim of Yachad – ensuring that inclusion isn’t an anomaly, but rather the norm. Another goal is servicing the entire Yachad family. Whether it’s through parent support groups, vocational training, SibShops, educational conferences, job fairs or our annual Family Shabbatonim, Yachad provides rich family programming and services across the country. At every Family Shabbaton, you feel the buoyant atmosphere, as Yachad families gather together for a weekend of education, inspiration and networking. So it’s time that the message is heard: individuals with disabilities have so much to offer. Yachad is proud to play a key role not only in helping them thrive, but in demonstrating how they enhance our growing local, national and global Jewish communities.

Eli Hagler, Associate Director

BELONG © 2014 by Orthodox Union. All rights reserved.

Supplement to Jewish Action

the yachad magazine • 2014

ORTHODOX UNION Martin Nachimson

President

Stephen J. Savitsky

Chairman of the Board

Allen I. Fagin

Executive Vice President / Chief Professional Officer

Rabbi Steven Weil

Senior Managing Director

Rabbi Dr. Tzvi H. Weinreb Executive Vice President, Emeritus Mayer Fertig

Chief Communications Officer

Shlomo Schwartz

Chief Financial Officer / Chief Administrative Officer

Rabbi Lenny Bessler

Chief Human Resources Officer

Sam Davidovics

Chief Infomation Officer

national jewish council for disabilities

Clockwise from top left: Kyra Englander and Nicole Rothenberg Team Yachad Miami Meyer Faena and Menachem Spira Northeast Family Shabbaton Rachel Zielinski and Chloe Grossbard Midwest Family Shabbaton Gavi Isaacs, Gavriel Hochstein and Josh Benchaya - Yachad B'Moshava

Charlotte Friedland Eli Hagler Abby Ravski Carrie Beylus Esther Berger Ellianna Schwab Yakov Elson Lisa Galinsky Sam Ulrich David Weintraub

Executive Editor Associate Editor Assistant Editor OU Director, Design & Branding Art Director Graphic Designer Photo Contributor Photo Contributor Photo Contributor Photo Contributor

How To Reach Us: Yachad/National Jewish Council for Disabilities 11 Broadway, 13th Floor, New York, NY 10004 212-613-8229 • Fax: 212-613-0796 • yachad@ou.org • www.yachad.org

@YachadNJCD

www.facebook.com/yachadnjcd www.youtube.com/yachadnjcd www.instagram.com/yachadnjcd


DEAR FRIENDS, Though the calendar says June, I must confess that I love the month of February. Why? That is the time Yachad presents NAIM, North American Inclusion Month, in which Yachad staff and leadership develop and promote programs across the United States and Canada to open the doors of synagogues, schools and community institutions to individuals of all ages with disabilities so as to include them in the total experience of the Jewish community. I must add that I love the other eleven months as well. Though NAIM sets the theme, so to speak, it is only an introduction to the rest of the year and the plethora of services and programs that Yachad provides. Though NAIM begins in February, it is now the vehicle for year round culture change. This is not the Yachad of just a few years ago. Yachad continues to experience very significant growth in all areas. This is especially so in our National Department. Chapters across the country and membership have grown, and the services we provide have increased as well. Our staff has grown larger, not just full-timers, but a host of part-timers as well as graduate and doctoral interns. Some examples of these dynamic new Yachad programs and services: •Vocational Services in both Chicago and New Jersey. •Increased Family Services – This year we presented a Midwest Family Shabbaton (with 400 participants) in March, in addition to the long-established East Coast event, which attracts 1,000 people, held in May. •Two major conferences on Special Education and Inclusion in schools, with more than 200 attendees at each and more projected for next year. •Sensitivity training – giving students a glimpse of what it’s like to have a disability – in schools and communities all over the country has grown as well. •Expanded training and support to our staff and chapter coordinators have also taken place to support the wider array of activities. What this means is that there are more and even better programs of inclusion happening all over the United States, Canada and Israel, affecting literally thousands of children and adults who have special needs and tens of thousands more who are their peers. A careful reading of Belong will provide insights into our programs, our growth, our staff and what the future may hold. Over the past twenty-five years, I have seen enormous changes in the way the Jewish community reacts to individuals with disabilities. There is still a long way to go, but the road to full inclusion is much shorter than it has ever been. Yachad has paved that road, provided the traffic signals (full speed ahead!) and positively impacted the Yachad members and professional staff who travel that road. If there are any obstacles on the road, we will clear them. Just as the present is bright for our varied constituencies, the future will be brighter still.

Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman, International Director

HOTTEST TICKETS IN THIS WORLD AND THE NEXT In the last issue of Belong magazine, I explained one critical aspect of Yachad, which is the importance of, and gratitude we owe to, the staff, advisors and volunteers of Yachad. In this issue, I would like to tell you a little bit about another key component of Yachad that I believe has been the hidden source of the wonderful growth and success of Yachad. This key component is the amazing and wonderful people that are our Yachad members with their very special and high neshamot (souls). During my six year tenure as Chairman of Yachad (which is coming to an end this year) I have learned one thing clearly. The hottest tickets in this world are not courtside to a Miami Heat game, nor on the 50 yard line first row of the Super Bowl. No, the hottest tickets are acceptances to Yachad’s Yad b’Yad summer program in Israel (where high school teens tour Israel with our Yachad members). The calls I get to try to get high schoolers accepted to this program are so numerous and are from so many amazing and deserving applicants. To me this phenomenon is a badge of honor of Yachad’s success and shows the draw that helping these high and holy souls, that we call Yachad members, has achieved, as there are many other tours of Israel each summer that the applicants could choose. How do we explain this? It is well known that when a person with special needs walked into the synagogue of the Chazon Ish zt'l that he used to stand up because he felt he was in the presence of a very high neshama (soul). Rav Moshe Shapiro, shl'ita, a gadol (rabbinic scholar) in Israel has written and talked dramatically about how fortunate are those of us who raise and can assist the high neshamot that are the special needs members of the Jewish people and Yachad. Rav Shapiro explains why, and how we know, they have such high souls, but that is for another time and another forum. He makes the point that Hashem only gives these high and holy neshamot (souls) to special parents, to special families and to special helpers who Hashem is confident about them being worthy of this honor and challenge. The team that has helped these special souls in this world will be with them, courtside, when they are greeted, festively and immediately, into the Next World. Certain good and caring people are drawn to these holy souls, while others can’t deal with them. Yachad is part of their team and everyone involved in Yachad will also have the “hottest” tickets in the Next World, right next to our amazing Yachad members, where their souls, true value and merits will finally be fully realized, understood and appreciated.

Aaron Kinderlehrer, Chairman of Yachad Belong 2014

1


Table of Contents

1

Executives' Messages Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman Aaron Kinderlehrer

28

Broadening Our Scope: Yachad’s Professional Conferences Share Expertise By Batya Rosner

3 6 10

Yachad Member Blasts Off Into Computer Game Career By Batya Rosner

The Journey of a Lifetime

31

Our Way Gemach: Changing Lives One Hearing Aid at a Time By Charlotte Friedland

Interview with Batya Jacob

By Charlotte Friedland

32

A Yachad Rav for Life: Rabbi Jay Weinstein

33

My Guiding Light

34

Hineinu: A New Yachad Initiative

36

Yachad’s Day Hab Donates Aron Kodesh

38

Bringing Yachad Programming Back to School

By Shoshana Remer

By Jonathan Spiller

By Bayla Sheva Brenner

12 16 22 24

2

Belong 2014

Meet a Yachad Family By Batya Rosner

Chapter Highlights By Michael Orbach

Yachad Israel: A Promising Chapter for the Promised Land By Michael Orbach

Couples Pursue Yachad Mission Together By Deborah Berman and Doria Miller

By Stephen Steiner

By Bayla Sheva Brenner

By Michal Grossman and Avital Listman

40

What Inclusion Means to Me


By Batya Rosner a Deep in the heart of Texas star is shining bright, and his name is Aaron Winston. A dedicated Yachad member born and bred in the Lone Star State, Aaron is pursuing a career at the nonPareil Institute, where he works as a staff programmer on various projects released on the iTunes store, or the Google Play store. He is the creator of SpaceApe, a quick, single player game that involves maneuvering a Russian Cosmonaut Ape named Dmitri around outer space; players aim to scoop up bananas while dodging asteroids, comets and aliens. “Socially, I believe Yachad prepared me for my job at nonPareil, as it gave me confidence in myself,” Aaron, 22, shares. “I have autism and Asperger’s. I didn’t always want friends; but Yachad helped me to understand the importance and benefits of having friends, of having a social network, and that I don’t have to do anything alone.” Aaron was diagnosed six years ago and participated in Yachad’s Getaway summer program the following summer,

at age 17. Yachad Getaway is a two-week retreat where Yachad members and staff create all of their activities and meals. “Yachad Getaway was the first time Aaron spent away from home, yet I felt confident in the program from the questions they asked my son to assess if the program would be a good fit,” recalls his mother Cindy. “It was an eye-opening experience for all of us to see how much he benefitted from independence. He introduced us to his friends. It was amazing to see what he was capable of in the right environment. “Yachad was such a plus for him! But when we picked him up from that first positive experience of Getaway, we were thinking, ‘now what?’ He’d had a glimpse of what friends were, so it was hard to go back to the solitude that had been ‘normal.’ Until then, he hadn’t realized how small his world was.” Aaron joined the small Yachad chapter in Dallas, participating in various Shabbatonim and in numerous Yachad summer programs including Yad B’Yad, an inclusive summer trip touring the Jewish homeland. He always looked Belong 2014

3


forward to the next Yachad event. It was at Yachad Summer my main goal coming to work every day isn’t just getting my Program’s Simchaton, a reunion taking place over Simchat job done. We’re a community, caring about each other. When Torah, that Aaron learned about Team Yachad. He had already that’s the main thing, it helps people get along and feel they’re been working with a trainer, so he decided to sign up and in a safe environment.” added more treadmill time to his exercise regime. Mostly fast “Aaron has been the very type of person our company walking, he completed the 2011 needs to be successful,” ING Half-Marathon in Miami states Dan Selec, founder as a proud member of Team and chief executive officer of Yachad. He went on to complete the nonPareil Institute. “As a it again the following year. student, he invested his time And the Simchaton well, and was always reaching was the source of another for more knowledge and important discovery. Aaron’s ability than he had the day parents learned of the before. Aaron came into our nonPareil Institute in nearby program with little computer Plano, Texas, which provides knowledge, but showed technical training and himself to be a hardworking employment to individuals on and dedicated member of the autism spectrum. our nonPareil crew. Step by “I had always been step, Aaron has built himself interested in video games and into a productive part of our was good at school, pretty organization.” detail oriented – but I had Aaron can be found tried college and found it too at the office 10:00 am to overwhelming; I had a lot of 6:00 pm, though he’s often anxiety,” Aaron states frankly. sighted there early and after“The only pre-requisite for hours. He has numerous nonPareil is to be on the autism responsibilities: as a games spectrum. I didn’t have real and software programmer experience in the technology for the company, he works field, but I was willing to apply with a team to create tools for myself.” program scripting. SpaceApe Aaron went through a took him a month and half to series of training courses in create, working with a team Aaron completes the Half-Marathon with software development and of artists on design concepts Team Yachad in 2011 programming before the and implementation. Smaller company hired him fulltime. “I games could take less time, find working here fun as well as gratifying in many different according to Aaron. areas,” Aaron says. “And while I do enjoy programming He also serves as a mentor, spending time daily software, I realize that working here is not entirely about helping others learn how to learn, building their confidence, being a programmer – it’s about helping others build skills. and trying to help them achieve personal success. “Aaron has One of the strengths of this company is that we employees are great leadership skills: he is patient and concerned for his not competing against each other.” teammate’s growth and participation. This may be in Cindy Winston notes, “From the beginning, Aaron was helping them with coursework, or by simply being there for ready and excited to put in a full day at nonPareil. I think a them when they need someone to talk to. He also leads group lot of that enthusiasm was from positive experiences he had sessions, ranging from coding to design,” Selec confirms. at Yachad. With Yachad, he felt that he didn’t have to pretend, Aaron credits his involvement with Yachad for building and once he found that same acceptance at nonPareil, he hit up his self-confidence to be a success socially and to apply the ground running.” himself on the job. That boost of confidence from Yachad Aaron agrees that there is something special about carries over into Judaism as well. As a proud Jew, Aaron working with others on the spectrum. “Not that everyone here wears his yarmulke to work every day. He learns Torah every is the same, but you can understand what it’s like to be in their morning with a rabbi before work, a practice he has enjoyed shoes,” he says. “I’m not perfect interacting with everyone, but for the past five years. As tzedakah is one of his favorite 4

Belong 2014


mitzvot, he’s careful to give ma’aser (tithe) from his salary. In fact, in recent months, as Aaron would sit down to figure out his finances, he has applied his ma’aser money to support the members of Team Yachad. One mark of his success is that last October Aaron was invited to participate in a panel discussion at Yachad’s High School Leadership Conference, where high school leaders from acro ss the country come together for a weekend of leadership training aimed at helping them enhance the Yachad program in their community. Aaron Aaron Winston at work. Photo: Michael Goodman shared his own story, explaining to the teenagers how his disability actually helped him succeed in securing and keeping his job. “For me to have a job means that I have a mission in life to do positive things for myself and for others,” Aaron reflects. “Being busy is very good for me, and making money is good, of course. Having a job that pushes me to expand my capabilities is positive, and I find that very fulfilling.” For information on the Dallas chapter of Yachad contact DallasYachad@ou.org. Batya Rosner is a staff writer at the Orthodox Union.

Vocational Training at Yachad A job is so much more than just a paycheck. It enables one to get involved in the community and contributes to an overall sense of inclusion and belonging. With the unemployment rate twice as high for individuals with disabilities than the typical population, employment is perhaps the greatest obstacle facing disability communities nationwide. Job-seekers must work to not only become as qualified and capable as possible, but must also combat the biased judgments some employers hold towards workers with disabilities. Although recent social and governmental initiatives have helped shed light on the issue of disability employment, there is still a long way to go in the quest to create a more inclusive workforce. The job market now is tough; imagine how much tougher it is for individuals with special needs. Everyone wants to work and contribute, individuals with special needs just need to be given the chance and opportunity. To enable individuals with special needs to land good jobs, Yachad provides: • Job Coaching • Specific Job Skills • Job/internship placement • Resume Writing Skills • Social Skills • Support System A Yachad Job Fair

Yachad’s vocational program offers comprehensive vocational services to adults with developmental disabilities, assisting them every step of the way on the road to vocational success. Our vocational team doesn’t just offer job coaching and job placement services, it provides individuals with the complex social and daily living skills training they will need to succeed in the working world. The program not only provides individuals with the skills and supports they will need to be successful employees, it helps them achieve greater independence for the rest of their lives.

For more information about Yachad’s Vocational Services, or to ask about hiring one of our members, please contact Jack Gourdji at GourdjiJ@ou.org or 212-613-8104.

Belong 2014

5


The Journey of a Lifetime By Charlotte Friedland

“I can’t say it was a ‘dream come true’ because it wasn’t even a dream,” says Miriam Kahn, a single mom from West Hempstead, New York. “There was no way I could picture my son Zev ever going to Israel. Because of his multiple health issues it takes a lot of planning just to take a short trip, let alone send him thousands of miles away for ten days.” When Miriam first heard that Yachad was offering a free trip to Israel for young adults with special needs, a gift from TaglitZev Kahn & Max Cohen – Thumbs up at the chocolate factory! Birthright Israel in conjunction with OU Israel Free Spirit, she dismissed the idea of including Zev. Though he wears braces on his legs he can walk with a walker, but he would packets, so the Yachad staffers could just shake them with have to be in a wheelchair for such a rigorous trip. Moreover, water to give him his drinks.” he is medically fragile, has had numerous back surgeries and With all in readiness, she returned home. When the big can eat only puréed food. day came, she accompanied the group on the flight. “It was But possibilities began to perk in her mind. What if she Zev’s first time on such a long flight and I was little nervous could find a way to make it work? Would Yachad take on the about it. But right after we took off, I went over to where he responsibility for his care? “I decided to go ahead and apply, to was seated, among the group of Birthright Israel participants see what would happen. I didn’t really think they’d accept him.” and wonderful counselors, and asked him, ‘How’s it going?’ She had underestimated the perseverance, resourcefulHe gave me a broad grin and a thumbs-up. When we landed, ness and idealism of Yachad staffers. Nicole Bodner, direcmy daughter was at the airport with ‘Round One’ of Zev’s tor of New York Yachad who runs the Birthright Israel trip, food supply, enough for their upcoming three-day trip to told Miriam she was willing to make all the arrangements northern Israel.” necessary for Zev to go on the trip. Yes, extra steps would have While Zev was touring with the Yachad group, Miriam to be taken, but she was quite sure that she and her staff could stayed with her daughter in Ramat Eshkol, Jerusalem. She deal with them. resisted the temptation to follow the tour bus all over Israel “They were great! Nicole was so willing to take on in her car. “I davened well that there should be no medical the challenge," says Miriam. “I started getting excited that emergencies, believe me. But overall I felt calm and optimistic. Israel would become a reality for Zev, because I go there often The Yachad staff understood all of his restrictions and I saw to visit my married daughter. All Zev knew of the experience that I could trust them. They were so attentive to Zev’s every is that I get on a plane, and I bring back pictures. To him, need and determined to include him in every activity. I wasn’t Israel was just photos of family members at the Kotel, not a sure how they would accomplish that, but I felt confident they real place.” would try.” The first thing to plan was how Zev would have the food “Miriam Kahn was fantastic,” attests Nicole. “She kept us he needed. As it happened, Miriam had planned to be in supplied with Zev’s food, including a thermos to keep it hot Israel in November for a family event, just six weeks before till lunchtime. Dinner was heated in the hotel’s kitchen. When the Yachad trip. “So I bought my daughter a freezer as a gift it became clear that it was not always possible to do that, she and I spent a few days cooking and puréeing and packaging supplied us with a microwave for Zev’s room. We carried it food for Zev. I also prepared powdered soymilk in little on trips with us. She seemed surprised that we would go the 6

Belong 2014


extra mile for Zev to join us in all of the fun.” Like all of the twenty-four participants on the trip, Zev made new friends, traveled the length and breadth of Israel, visited a chocolate factory, took the cable car to the top of Masada, took in parks, danced, played the drums, and went jeep-riding in the Negev. “We had to be mindful that Zev had back surgery, so he rode in a jeep that stayed on the road, rather than bumping over the sand, but we all met at the same destination,” Nicole explains. At Beit Hagalgalim (House of Wheels), a recreational/ educational center for children with physical challenges in wheelchairs, the Yachad group prepared flowerpots to landscape the site. Then one of the Yachad participants suggested painting them, to make them even more beautiful. Zev painted happily along with the rest – even playfully painting the face of a nearby staffer. “Zev brought laughter and joy to the whole group,” beams Nicole. “He has a sparkling personality and a great sense of humor. And he had a specific tease for everyone – like a high-five, or a thumbs-up he assigned to every member of the staff. Everybody wanted to hang out with him.” The high point of the trip was when the group went to the Kotel. Miriam and her family were waiting when they arrived at the overlook from where you can catch a first glimpse. As two staffers lifted Zev up so he could see, his face lit up with recognition and he gasped, “Oh my God!” He had made it. He was at the Kotel, the Wall he had seen in photo after family photo. “It was incredible to see Zev go with the group across the plaza, right up to the Kotel and put a kvital (prayer on a paper note) in one of the chinks,” says Miriam. “Everybody was dancing and singing. I couldn’t stop crying.” In the several months since

Staffer Emily Feldman wrote this moving and insightful email to Nicole Bodner after returning from the trip in January. She has allowed us to share it with our readers. Hi Nicole! I wanted to share some thoughts and reflections on the trip while they are still fresh in my mind. First of all, it was the most fun, inspirational, and meaningful experience I could have had. Traveling the country together, bonding on the bus, learning about each other and just having a great time, I learned to appreciate each day and realize the significance of each moment. I’ve been involved with Yachad for years, and this experience has definitely been the most intense, but also the most influential Yachad program that I have been a part of. Our schedule was rigorous and it required a lot of concentration to make it a meaningful social, emotional, spiritual and educational experience while keeping everyone happy, healthy and cared for – all in a very short span of time. Because of all of this cramming, it made us even more vigilant, even more hardworking and even more determined to give each participant the best experience he or she could have. And though it was only ten days, each day had more significance than a day on a two-month summer program. It forced us to evaluate and try to improve daily and not let things pass us by. Our staff was amazing. I was truly honored to be part of such an experienced, diverse, and talented group. Everyone was willing to chip in when things got tough. Looking around at our staff meetings, I really couldn’t believe that I was a part of this great team. They were so aware of the issues that needed to be dealt with and, above all, knew how to remain calm and have fun. Something special that I got out of this trip was watching the genuine, unfiltered impact that many experiences had on the participants. I always find that in Yachad environments people are more in touch with how they are actually thinking and feeling. This is due to the inclusive and understanding environment, and sometimes due to the individual’s own honesty and openness. When we had meaningful experiences such as the Kotel, Shabbos, and Yad Vashem, it was refreshing to hear and see people react and respond with genuine warmth. This was just another really cool part of the trip that was made possible from both a Birthright perspective – understanding significant Jewish concepts – and a Yachad perspective, feeling comfortable to talk openly about these concepts in a meaningful way. Finally, I think this was the first time I truly felt what Yachad does from an outsider’s perspective. It’s easy to lose sight of how incredible Yachad is when you go on a Shabbaton and receive a simple thank you from a parent, or when you’re in a camp where everyone is aware that Yachad is unique and tries to include people. But when you travel out of our little Yachad bubble, not everyone is accustomed to seeing people with disabilities travelling and having fun in Israel like any other first-time tourist. People were in awe of us, and how participants and staff alike impacted on one another – whether it was through an impromptu dance party in a public place, a thank you to a shawarma guy, or just walking through a museum with decorum and genuine interest. Hearing “thank you” from parents after the trip was even more meaningful. It was not only a thank you for the expected inclusion of their child in society, but for their acceptance into the Jewish community, the Jewish lifestyle and the Jewish homeland that would not have been possible without this incredible program. I really miss the trip and everyone on it! You were always so calm and organized and genuinely caring about every staff member and participant, it made the trip that much greater! All the best, Emily

Emily Feldman (at right) with Chavie Holtzman

Belong 2014

7


they returned to the States, Zev keeps up with his Yachad friends on Facebook and Face Time. “And he looks at the pictures taken in Israel every single day. It gives him such joy,” says Miriam. “I had always dreamed of making Aliyah,” she confides, “but I didn’t know how Zev would adjust. Now that I see how much he loves Israel, I’m going to make plans. I’ve got to research how we will manage there, but from our experience with this trip, I’m sure it can be done. Now that would be a dream-come-true.” For more information on Taglit-Birthright Israel: Israel Free Spirit Yachad trips to Israel contact Nicole Bodner at bodern@ou.org.

Charlotte Friedland is the editor of Belong.

Zev at the Kotel for the first time

Get Involved B'yachad celebrating

30 years

of building an Inclusive jewish Community!

JOIN AN EVENT COMMITTEE BRING YACHAD TO YOUR COMMUNITY HIRE AN INDIVIDUAL WITH DISABILITIES RUN WITH TEAM YACHAD HOST A YACHAD SHABBATON SHOP AT YACHADGIFTS.COM DONATE AT YACHAD.ORG/DONATE For more information, please contact Naftali Herrmann 212.613.8373 | friendsofyachad@ou.org | www.yachad.org/foy

Friends of Yachad (FoY) is a subsidiary of Yachad, The National Jewish Council for Disabilities, an international, not-for-profit 501 (c3) organization headquartered in New York City. FoY raises awareness and support for Yachad, the only worldwide organization of its kind promoting inclusion for children and adults in the broader Jewish community. Through philanthropic leadership of Yachad alumni – and beyond – from coast to coast, FoY helps Yachad continue its mission of enhancing the life opportunities of individuals with disabilities. Yachad is an agency of the Orthodox Union.


1

2

3

4

5

6

YACHAD SUMME R PROGRAMS

2013

7

8

9

10

11

12

1. Yad B'Yad 9. Yad B'Yad

2. Yad B'Yad 10. Nesher

3. Yad B'Yad 4. Nesher 5. Moshava B'Yachad 11. Nesher 12. Yom Nate B'Yachad

6. Moshava B'Yachad

7. Morasha

8. Nesher

Belong 2014

9


A Yachad Rav for Life: Rabbi Jay Weinstein By Bayla Sheva Brenner

Fortunate individuals among us have discovered an addiction that’s actually good for you. Better than chocolate or coffee, once you’ve experienced Yachad, you’re instantly, and healthfully, hooked. It becomes an essential part of your life, your family, and sometimes – your job. Yachad-smitten since high school, Rabbi Jay Weinstein, rav of the Young Israel of East Brunswick, New Jersey, now has his entire shul community passionately involved and clamoring for more. During his initial four years of leadership, Rabbi Weinstein instituted a Special Needs committee that has successfully integrated children and teens into myriad shul activities including Shabbat groups, nursery school and, starting this summer, Camp Keshet, the first day camp in the tri-state area with a Yachad program. The community also sponsors several well-attended Yachad events each year, including annual Rayim Yachad Shabbatonim for adults over the age of twenty-six. “I could give a drashah (sermon) with a message about inclusion, but it’s not the same as experiencing it firsthand,” says Rabbi Weinstein. “Holding a Yachad program in our shul, connecting with Yachad members, benefitting from their appreciation of the world around them, their Yiddishkeit, is a much more powerful way to educate.” And he should know; that’s precisely what captured him, and kept him coming back to Yachad. As “It’s our responsibility to make a teen growing up in Miami Beach, our communities and shuls he never missed open to people of all abilities.” South Florida Yachad chapter’s monthly events. His fervor continued beyond high school. While an undergraduate student at Yeshiva University, he served as chapter coordinator for Rayim Yachad in Brooklyn. While studying for ordination he earned an additional degree, a masters in special education. The summer after college graduation, while 10

Belong 2014

serving as a counselor in the Yachad bunk at Camp Morasha, Rabbi Weinstein met his future wife, Sharon, also a counselor. He went on to run the first vocational program designing jobs for older members with special needs at Camp Moshava. When it came time to find a rabbinical position, Rabbi Weinstein’s attachment to Yachad and commitment to inclusion spoke loudly and clearly on his resume. As assistant rabbi of Shaare Tefillah in Dallas, Texas, with the senior rabbi’s encouragement, he launched a thriving Yachad chapter and served as chapter coordinator. Unsurprisingly, now as the rav of Young Israel of East Brunswick, he also assisted with the opening of a Middlesex County (New Jersey) Yachad chapter which drew 120 participants at the synagogue’s most recent Rayim Yachad Shabbaton this past February. “It’s an inspiration to watch him at a Shabbaton,” says Melissa Rosen, director of the youth department and Camp Keshet. “He’s so at ease; he engages immediately and joyously. Our adult congregants and their children see that and model it. Inclusion has become part of our culture.” Debbie Schaulewicz, East Brunswick resident for twenty-eight years and chairperson of the Special Needs


“Participants keep telling us...they can't wait to come back next year.” Committee, concurs. “So many families volunteered to host Yachad members that we had to turn many of them down,” says Schaulewicz. “Friday night Yachad participants ate at

members and advisors are given aliyot and

encourages

them to publicly share divrei Torah (insights based on Torah passages). “The most important thing to Rabbi Weinstein is that they feel welcomed and truly part of the community,” says Schaulewicz. “Participants keep telling us they feel so at home in East Brunswick they can’t wait to come back next year.” Rabbi

Weinstein’s

infectious

devotion

to

Yachad

continues to touch lives – past, present and future. “When my husband got up to give a drashah at a recent Shabbaton, one of the members shouted, ‘Hey Jay!’ He remembered him as his camp counselor and Rayim Yachad coordinator,” says Sharon. “He values making a difference for others, to include them and make their lives richer. His idea of inclusion is that it’s a lifelong goal.” The shul’s children are growing up with inclusion as a normal part of life. Mrs. Weinstein reports that her seven-year-old daughter treasures her friendship with a girl with Down syndrome. “Their peers are their peers; there’s no separation in their minds,” says Rosen. “It’s very beautiful to see.”

Apparently, the rabbi’s extensive inclusion efforts are

also making a difference in his adult congregants’ lives. “We’re all so much more aware of the special needs population and what we can do to include them,” says Schaulewicz. “We’re more sensitive and open-minded; and we’re better people for it.”

Rabbi Weinstein plans to spread the Yachad

riches to other synagogues, to show them how it can uplift an entire kehillah. “It’s our responsibility to make our Rabbi & Mrs. Weinstein with Ora, Ayal, & Eitan

communities and shuls open to people of all abilities,” he says. He cites Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman, international director of

their hosts’ home. On Shabbos afternoon the community ate together with the Yachad members. Rabbi Weinstein wanted everyone to mingle with the Yachad members and advisors. This way, it’s very personal.” Ensuring that Yachad members feel actively involved in Shabbat services, Rabbi Weinstein sees to it that Yachad

Yachad, whom he calls his personal role model: “Don’t say we can’t do it; give all the reasons why we can.”

An exemplary inclusion champion, Rabbi Weinstein

never runs out of reasons why he and his community can. Bayla Sheva Brenner is a staff writer at the Orthodox Union. Belong 2014

11


Meet a Yachad Family By Batya Rosner

12

Meet the Ungar family

of Oak Park, Michigan.

express herself,” reflects Shoshana.

Leah Ungar, mother of Yachad member Sara, credits Sara’s

siblings with encouraging Sara to live a full life.

adjustment, but now it’s routine. We know her needs and what

It wasn’t always easy. Sisters Shoshana and Adina were

she’s capable of. And as we’ve grown up, it’s less challenging

nine and ten, respectively, when Sara was born. Too young

to read my sister. She’s wonderful, adorable – and has a great

to fully comprehend the impact of her developmental delays,

sense of humor! My brothers adore her, but brothers and

they noticed how much more time Sara required from their

sisters deal differently. Over the years, as we have developed

parents. “Though we always loved Sara, there were frustrating

as a family and as individuals, there’s still a sense of protection

times that we simply didn’t understand her, that she couldn’t

around our sister. We want others to see Sara as we see Sara.”

Belong 2014

She adds, “At the beginning, understanding Sara was an


The Ungar siblings: Adina, Tzvi, Shoshana, Yachad member Sara, and Dani

“We learned a lot about love with Sara,” shares Adina. “And she definitely taught our family to have patience, lots of patience.” From a young age, Sara’s parents enrolled her at both the local Bais Yaakov and the public school system. That way she could receive the services most beneficial for her various cognitive and social issues, while enjoying an inclusive experience within the Jewish school as much as possible. About five years ago, Mrs. Ungar read about Yachad summer programs in an article in The Jewish Press and reached out to Nechama Braun, Yachad Summer Programs administrator, about registering Sara for the summer. Though Sara had attended previous camps, her social networks did not hold on. “I was worried how Sara’s experience would be at a new camp 600 miles away from home, but once we brought her to the camp, we saw how well run the program is, and we knew it would be great,” recalls Mrs. Ungar. “Yachad Morasha is wonderful and my daughter looks forward to camp every year.” At Morasha, Sara made friends with whom she communicates all year long, including one individual she talks to every day. In fact, one of the highlights of attending a recent Shabbaton in Chicago was being able to reunite with camp friends. “Sara loves being social and thrives when she is at camp,” smiles her sister Shoshana. “It’s helpful for our parents to know she is happy and excited about her summer plans. And while we make our own plans for activities while she is away, we don’t send her away because we need a respite. We want what’s best for her.” Since Yachad opened a local chapter last year in Detroit, Sara has become a vibrant participant. The highlight of her week? Hands down, everyone in the family knows that every Thursday Sara looks forward to “Pizza and Parshah.” Sara’s parents appreciate that the Detroit Yachad chapter programming has presented their daughter with outlets she hasn’t had before. “My daughter has simchas hachayim – a joy for life – and she is always happy to try something new,” says her father, Dr. David Ungar. “At Yachad, she gets together

with friends who are so easy to be with, who accept her for who she is. And she picks up on the positivity.”

The family is gratified that now Sara often turns to the

phone to speak with her friends. “Yachad has been incredible for my sister, giving her a whole social scene she didn’t have previously,” offers Adina. “Though she has a lot of life to her, sometimes she can get into herself and become withdrawn. Yet around her friends, or when she finds out about a Yachad event, or when she’s counting down to leave for camp, she’s more alive, more in tune.” “Her happy anticipation toward the next event keeps her engaged with us,” remarks Shoshana. “We can say ‘let’s go

“We want others to see Sara as we see Sara.”

shopping,’ ‘let’s talk about it,’ ‘let’s start packing’ because we want to be involved with her. When it comes to preparing for a Yachad event, she will let us do that.” This winter, Sara travelled to Israel with Yachad and Israel Free Spirit (the Ta g l i t - B i r t h r i g h t I s r a e l p r o g r a m coordinated by the Orthodox Union). “Sara is not always gushy when she talks, but I get tears in my eyes remembering

when she first told me ‘Mommy, I love Israel,’” Mrs. Ungar recalls. “She had such a great time! Yachad took her from north to south and all around Jerusalem.” When she returned home from the ten-day trip, Sara was able to relive the experience and share with family members exact memories from a video Yachad staff put together as a memento.

“Birthright and Yachad provided the experience of a

lifetime for my daughter,” Leah adds. “I can send Sara without a family member to a Shabbaton, to camp, to Israel – that’s something I could never have done without Yachad. I know that it’s properly run, with guidance by those who are well trained and equipped to handle people with special needs. It’s a priceless gift, not only for Sara, but for our entire family.” For information on the Detroit chapter of Yachad contact DetroitYachad@ou.org.

Batya Rosner is a staff writer at the Orthodox Union.

Belong 2014

13


Yachad SHABBATONIM

a year of


R E T P C H A

h g Hi ts h g i l

rbach

By Michael O

florida Florida, one of the fastest growing Jewish communities in the United States, is also the home of one the fastest growing Yachad chapters. It is now headed by a full time director, Denise Herschberg. A twenty-year veteran of Jewish communal work, Denise joined Yachad in August 2013 when her rabbi mentioned that the organization was looking to broaden its services in Florida. The connection for her was immediate. “I felt like I’d found a home,” she recalls. Under Denise’s leadership, Florida Yachad has partnered with PJ Library in South Palm Beach County and is planning a partnership with the Friendship Circle in Miami. “By joining together we can reach an even broader population and bring Yachad’s programming to that many more families,” she says.

Equine therapy

16

Belong 2014

In addition to the partnerships, Florida Yachad has been running innovative programs that take advantage of the state’s great climate: horse therapy classes have been very popular, as well as a fourweek session at a farm for middle school students and Yachad members. Denise has already seen progress. After holding two long-term planning sessions for families with children who have special needs, fifty new families joined. In response


new england

Take this quiz! What did New England Yachad do this year? A) Receive a $50,000 grant from the Ruderman Family Foundation along with a $25,000 matching grant from the national Yachad office. B) Expand into three new regions in the greater Boston area. C) Start Yachad’s first-ever college chapter at Brandeis University. D) All of the above. Trip to the Discovery Museum

If you guessed D, you’d be correct. This was a banner year for the chapter formerly known as Boston Yachad. The name change to New England Yachad occurred when Director Liz Offen realized how popular the chapter had become and how many participants were travelling from all over the state to be a part of it. Both the $50,000 grant and the matching grant will build and expand on existing programming through partnering with other Jewish non-profits in the New England area. Moreover, New England Yachad will be working together with a social worker at Jewish Family Services in Metro West and with the JCC of Northshore to expand programming. This past year finished with two other accomplishments: standing room only at New England Yachad’s annual Tu B’shvat Seder; and a banquet dinner for graduating seniors celebrating their time with Yachad. Thanks to Yachad’s new college board, the students’ experience with Yachad will continue to grow.

Yom Chesed at Maimonides

For more information contact Liz Offen at NewEnglandYachad@ou.org, OffenL@ou.org or 646-628-7003.

Bowling with friends

to popular demand, a third session took place before Pesach. “Florida is a natural place for Yachad to expand its programming in service to this vital, growing Jewish community,” she says. “There’s so much to do.” For more information about Yachad Florida contact Denise at herschbergd@ou.org or 561-306-5872.

Belong 2014

17


Karaoke after a Shabbaton

Digging up fossils at the Stone Age Kickoff

What is Los Angeles Yachad doing? A better question is what isn’t Los Angeles Yachad doing? Since Orit Faguet came on as full-time director this past summer, innovative Yachad programming across Los Angeles has continued to flourish. This year's monthly activity theme was traveling through time: each month featured an activity tied to the theme. Participants began the year in the stone-age with a fossil dig and drumstick ice cream; one month was dedicated to dressing up as pirates for the golden age of the high seas. Another month, Yachad participants dressed as pilgrims for the Thanksgivvukah feast, and in March, they got their groove on as 1960s hippies. Weekly activities for more than fifty participants have included a “Cupcake War,” a “Color Run,” and a “Drum Circle” serving as a grogger warm-up for Purim. Orit credits the local Yachad board, composed of high school students in the area, for the creativity of the events.

Michael Vogel, Doni Yellin & Pesach Menkes

“Inclusion doesn’t mean high school students take care of Yachad members,” Orit explains. “It means they develop friendships with each other.” She recalls that at one event a Yachad member shocked a high school student by telling her that he had never tasted sushi. At the next event, she brought several sushi dishes for all the Yachad members. “It’s all about sharing,” Orit says. “Everyone was delighted with the sushi and we all had a fabulous time.” For more information about Los Angeles Yachad, contact Orit Faguet at LosAngelesYachad@ou.org or 310-229-9000 x206.

Los angeles 18

Belong 2014


toronto

When Toronto Yachad brought in Richard Bernstein, a lawyer, marathon runner and activist who is blind, to speak about empowering the special needs population, he didn’t speak in only one venue. In four days, he spoke in seventeen places all across Toronto, powerfully sending Yachad’s message to the entire community. Under the leadership of Devorah Marmer, a veteran of Jewish communal work for twenty-eight years, Toronto Yachad has been offering an incredible amount of programming. Weekly events for forty-five Yachad members, amazing monthly activities and a vocational program in Moshava Ba’Ir Toronto day camp, tell only half the story. Toronto Yachad’s last Shabbaton, held in partnership with BAYT – one of Toronto's largest shuls – broke all Toronto Yachad records with 150 participants and fifty guests from the community. The Shabbaton also coincided with Shabbat Itanu, a Toronto-wide initiative run by the UJA Federation that stresses inclusion, a natural fit for Toronto Yachad. In March, Yachad launched a weekly basketball program at one of the largest high schools in

Apple picking at Brook's Farms

Toronto. Currently, there are several programs running each month. Since Bernstein’s appearance, Devorah says she has been inundated with phone calls to bring more of Yachad’s programming to the greater Toronto area. “People come over to me and say they had never heard of Yachad,” she explains, “till now! Currently I’m meeting with a number of schools and synagogues to see how we can bring more inclusive programming to the entire Toronto Jewish community.” For more information about Toronto Yachad, contact Devorah Marmer at torontoyachad@ou.org or 416-986-1985.

Blue Jays Game at Rogers Centre

Michael Orbach is a staff writer at the Orthodox Union.

Belong 2014

19


since

1983

YACHAD HAS BEEN PROMOTING INCLUSION ACROSS THE GLOBE

2014 35% INCREASE IN 2012 MEMBERSHIP OVER THE LAST TWO YEARS

4,200

families

ARE MEMBERS OF 55 N. AMERICAN CHAPTERS

ADULT & VOCATIONAL SERVICES

3,000 mishloach manot

1,200

job-seekers WITH DISABILITIES CAME TO YACHAD JOB FAIRS

WERE SENT IN 2014 FROM YACHAD’S NEW INITIATIVE, YACHADGIFTS.COM

60 special-needs adults

IN DAILY DAYHAB JOB-TRAINING PROGRAMS

SUMMER & BIRTHRIGHT PROGRAMS

24 campers

ON THE 1 YAD B’YAD TRIP IN ‘96 ST

485 20

Belong 2014

160 campers ON YAD B’YAD SUMMER ‘14

SPECIAL-NEEDS ADULTS JOINED TAGLIT-BIRTHRIGHT ISRAEL TRIPS

670

YOUNG ADULTS

WILL JOIN YACHAD THIS SUMMER


10,000 students

HAVE PARTICIPATED IN YACHAD SENSITIVITY TRAINING

16,000 congregants

5,000 professionals

IN COMMUNITIES ACROSS THE USA BENEFIT FROM INCLUSION PROGRAMS AND EVENTS

HAVE ATTENDED CONTINUING ED. CONFERENCES SINCE 2005

FAMILY & CLINICAL SERVICES

27

MEMBERS IN DATING & MARRIAGE SKILLS CLASS

200+

SOCIAL SKILLS CLASSES

60% increase

IN COUNSELING SERVICES SINCE 2012

5,000 FAMILY MEMBERS

INVOLVED IN SUPPORT GROUPS

NATIONAL PROGRAMMING

400

236 recreational events

IN THE PAST TWO YEARS

ADVOCATED FOR DISABILITY RIGHTS IN D.C.

SHABBATONIM

WERE HOSTED ACROSS AMERICA BY NATIONAL CHAPTERS IN 2013

150 young adults

DESIGNED BY ELLIANNA SCHWAB Belong 2014

21


Yachad Israel

By Michael Orbach

A Promising Chapter for the Promised Land Picture this: You’re an 18-year-old American studying in a seminary or yeshiva in Israel. It’s a new experience for you to spend an entire year away from your family and sometimes you’re a bit overwhelmed by unfamiliar surroundings. But then, walking down a street, you see a flyer for a Yachad Shabbaton. Yachad! You know Yachad; you loved Yachad Shabbatonim in high school. You loved having a Yachad program in your camp. But Yachad in Israel? You rush back to sign up for the Shabbaton, but you’re too late. The Shabbaton is already sold out. That’s what happened at Yachad Israel’s last Shabbaton held in Ra’anana — sold out within ten hours, a testament to Yachad Israel’s success. “We had to close registration because we quickly had 94 people registered,” explains Yoel Sterman, Yachad Israel co-director. While Yachad is well known throughout the United States — promoting its mission of inclusion for individuals with special needs in dozens of Jewish communities across the continent – Yachad Israel is relatively new. It was 22

Belong 2014

officially launched at the end of 2012. The development of Yachad Israel was organic, says Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman, international director of Yachad. “We had wanted to start a chapter in Israel years ago, but just as we were gearing up to begin, the Intifada started and our plans had to be shelved until a better time. Later, following our initial success with Team Yachad’s participation in the Miami Marathon, I had this idea that we could use the Jerusalem Marathon as a foundation to start a chapter in Israel.” When Team Yachad announced its participation in the Jerusalem Marathon, more than 110 runners rushed to sign up. Since then, 215 ran in 2013, and 252 in 2014. With the funds raised from the Jerusalem Marathon, Yachad Israel was founded under the direction of Joe Goldfarb, director of Yachad Summer Programs, with Lisa (Rich) Galinsky and Yoel Sterman as Yachad Israel’s co-directors. Part of the need for Yachad Israel came from the structure of services available for the special needs population in Israel,


according to Joe, who now directs Yachad Israel along with Yachad

the year in Israel; the leadership board composed of four

Summer Programs. “Israel has some special needs services, but

members; and a larger board that has representatives from

little that directly promotes inclusion,” he says. “There is a vacuum

major seminaries and yeshivot.

in those services for English-speaking people who made Aliyah.”

The first inclusive program was a Chanukah party,

active in Yachad during high school and in Camp Moshava.

followed by weekly events and four Shabbatonim that year.

He serves as co-president of Yachad Israel along with Racheli

Yachad Israel quickly realized the tremendous value and

Weil, a student at Nishmat.

Akiva Marder, 19, a student at Yeshivat Har Etzion, was

Team Yachad runners celebrate their completion of a Color Run

popularity of Shabbatonim: monthly Shabbatonim were

quickly introduced alongside the weekly events such as

tance. It’s both exciting and meaningful to see that message

“Pizza and Parshah” and bowling.

come to fruition and watch it spread here in Israel,” Akiva says.

To design programs, Yachad Israel recruited two boards,

made up entirely of young men and women spending

“I think our message of inclusion is one of utmost impor-

Among their other activities this year, Yachad Israel

participated in the Jerusalem Color Run with more than 800 runners. Enthusiasm for Team Yachad during the Jerusalem Marathon increases each year, with our largest group to date

Yachad Israel Co-Presidents: Racheli Weil & Akiva Marder

running this year.

“Today Yachad Israel is a fast-growing chapter, providing

unique programs and services of inclusion, and responding to unmet needs,” says Dr. Lichtman.

Having Yachad established in Israel was a dream fulfilled

for families with special needs members. “Parents of Yachad members are thrilled,” explains Lisa. “Yachad gives individuals an opportunity to feel like anyone else. Yachad Israel is a warm, supportive home where members are able to gain lasting friendships, which is the most important thing.” For more information about Yachad Israel contact Lisa Galinsky or Yoel Sterman at yachadisrael@ou.org. Michael Orbach is a staff writer at the Orthodox Union. Belong 2014

23


P URSUING YACHAD'S    Yaffa

&

Yachad has changed many lives for the better in immeasurable ways. Two of those people are Yaffa and Ari Ash, who met each other through their work with Yachad. Yaffa was first exposed to Yachad via a Shabbaton she attended with a friend during high school. She soon found her niche, and from 2004 to 2009 she worked as a coordinator, advisor, and counselor in various Yachad programs, including Yad b’ Yad. Meanwhile, her future husband Ari, with whom she shared mutual childhood friends but had never actually met in person, also began to contribute his time and talents to Yachad. Eventually, Yaffa and Ari met at a Yachad Shabbaton in 2007 and became friends. Later that year, at the same site of the Shabbaton where they first met and worked together, Ari proposed. The importance of disability inclusion was instilled in Yaffa from a very early age by her mother, who worked in special education and exposed Yaffa to the diversity of humankind. Yaffa feels that this helped her achieve a greater understanding of how people with disabilities can

Yaffa & Ari with their son, "JD"

24

Belong 2014

Ari Ash By Deborah Berman

and should fit as equal and useful members of our Jewish communities and the world. She and Ari live by this belief in their daily lives, and they work tirelessly to impart the idea of true inclusion and equality to others. To further that goal, they advise teens to “forget all your expectations” about Yachad inclusion events “and think of it as just hanging out with new people.” This seemingly obvious piece of advice hides a powerful message. Many people in the wider world have unfortunate preconceived – and often downright incorrect – notions of what people with disabilities are like, and also about what it might be like to form social relationships with them. It’s important to remember that people with disabilities are simply people – people with hearts and minds and feelings. They can share so much with you, and you with them. “So get involved,” they encourage young people, “as we did.” And who knows? You might just meet that special someone who shares your values and commitment. Deborah Berman is Yachad director of Social Work.


MISSION T OGETHER    Jackie

&

Stevie Moster By Doria Miller

In the summer of 2007, Yachad had a common need, interest, and love brought Jackie Green and Stevie for Yachad.” What’s Jackie’s advice for someone’s Moster together, and today they confirst time at a Yachad event? “Experience tinue their work as a married couple, the array of emotions, ask questions, extending Yachad’s mission in the and assume a leadership position when Jewish community. there is a need. Create a welcoming and Both Jackie and Stevie, from Jackie & Stevie with Yachad member Jonathan accepting place for everyone.” Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, became Feinerman on Yad B'Yad 2007 Jackie and Stevie continue to counselors on Yad B’Yad, Yachad’s live by Yachad’s mission of “addressing summer program that brings typically the needs of all individuals with disabilities, ensuring their developing teens together with young adults with disabilities inclusion in everyday life.” Stevie spreads Yachad’s message on a tour of Israel. During Yad B’Yad, high school students about education and advocating for greater understanding, and Yachad members experience the Jewish homeland to acceptance, and outreach by creating a disabilities study the fullest as they ride camels, hike up Masada, participate major at University of Maryland. Jackie is a behavior specialist, in special Shabbat programs, and volunteer for community working in a mainstream school supporting students with service work. Jackie and Stevie first became a team when they challenges in multiple areas, such as social skills. She believes were assigned to similar responsibilities on Yad B’Yad. Their that inclusion is reality. “People should not be included only working relationship quickly developed into a friendship, and in certain situations; it should be a way of life.” that friendship eventually evolved into marriage. The couple brings Yachad’s mission to everything that they Jackie first began her involvement with Yachad through do at home as well, teaching their ten-month-old son, Sammy, weekend Shabbatonim when she was in high school, soon self-acceptance, sensitivity, and respect for others – all others. realizing she was “surrounded by people who brought out the best” in her. She came to view Yachad as a place that “despite everyone’s differences, [we] were getting together,

Doria Miller is a Yachad Social Work intern.

Jackie & Stevie with their son, Sammy

Belong 2014

25


RS RUNNE

188

H T O A N R A M I MIAM


RUNNER S

252

JERUSALEM MARATHON


Broadening Our Scope Yachad's Professional Conferences Share Expertise By Batya Rosner For thirty years, Yachad has been advocating for the inclusion of those with disabilities within the Jewish community. In recent years, however, the organization has been able to reach beyond our immediate Jewish circles, sharing the experience and expertise of its professional staff with the general community. “As part of the wider disabilities professionals’ community we are responsible for educating our colleagues, and in turn being educated by our colleagues,” states Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman, international director of Yachad. “Yachad is great at providing its services to our members and their families, but we realize that while we may have many pieces of the puzzle, we don’t have all of the pieces. The more individuals and agencies interact and share information, the better it will be for the people we serve.” “Yachad provides these services and works with other agencies, schools and organizations to make sure they are on the cutting edge of special needs education, technology and resources. It’s our responsibility to ensure that every agency servicing the special needs community is well equipped with knowledge and know-how,” adds Eli Hagler, associate director of Yachad. To fulfill that mission, Yachad director of Social Work Deborah Berman, LCSW, developed a Continuing Education Conference for disability services professionals. Its goal is to further develop their professional skills as well as enable them to network with agencies across the spectrum of services. “It’s no longer realistic for a practitioner to utilize a one-size-fits-all approach to client matters,” Deborah explains. “Working with individuals with special needs requires a practitioner to be a sociologist, an historian, a detective, and a counselor. They must understand how an individual’s culture or community responds and reacts to individuals with disabilities, both on the attitudinal level and the social service level.” The first conference was so successful that Yachad opted to host two such conferences during this school year, in December and in April. The conferences respond to the needs of disabilities workers in many different professional areas. For

28

Belong 2014

example, many of those in attendance were key gatekeepers in different agencies working with staff and families. Within Deborah’s workshop on “Direct Care Worker Support and Self Care,” conversation among the group shifted to the struggles of motivational management by supervisors and senior staff. “All managers constantly deal with preventing staff burnout,” Deborah assured the group. “Trying to help your clients deal with difficult situations can make your staff feel unqualified and ineffective. Let’s discuss how a good manager can combat that feeling...” Another area explored at the conference was how individuals with disabilities can be enabled to find their place in the workforce. The Jewish Union Foundation (JUF) partners with Yachad in providing comprehensive vocational services to the disability community; Jack Gourdji, JUF executive director, and Michael Appelbaum, JUF program director, led an enlightening session on “Vocational Options for Persons with Disabilities.” Discussing vocational development with the group, Natalie Marc of VISIONS Center on Blindness said, “For the most part, people with disabilities are very hard working and that supports a high retention rate. Our clients are grateful to be employed and really want to prove that they are capable. Once they have the opportunity to show themselves, they will give it their all. Employers love that. They want to hire someone they know can contribute a lot to the company.” The high level of expertise demonstrated by the Yachad presenters and those from other agencies whom Yachad enlisted to address the conferences assured a positive, productive outcome. Luigi Clemente, a first-year student in Hunter College’s Master’s program for Rehabilitation Counseling, made it a point to participate. “A large part of working with rehab counseling entails vocational development for people with disabilities, so when my department chair forwarded us an email about the conference, I decided to attend to broaden my horizons and network,” Clemente says. “I’m so glad I came.”


Conferences for Educators In addition to Continuing Education Conferences for professionals in the disability field, Yachad organizes two major conferences every year for educators in the Greater New York/New Jersey area (and also provides monthly webinars for educators). To better accommodate school budgets and encourage wider participation, conferences for educators in different regions of North America are planned. “Every child learns differently – every child has strengths, every child has weaknesses –and therefore we need to look at each child as a diverse learner in order to teach them better,” says Batya Jacob, director of Yachad Educational Support Services who coordinates the conferences. With more than 800 participants, Yachad’s Election Day Educators’ Conference has become a distinguished professional advancement opportunity for New Jersey special education professionals and their colleagues from around the country. This year’s two-day conference, “Creating a Positive School Environment for Diverse Learners,” was attended by representatives of eighty-plus schools from around the country. “These conferences reach a range of teachers from those who hold degrees in Special Education to those who are trained as typical secular and Jewish teachers and do not have that background,” says Batya. “Today, every classroom has all types of different learners; teachers need to know how

Dr. Lichtman emphasized to the assembled group. “Clearly it is where our students ‘live,’ and has the potential to offer much. But it can never replace the human dynamic, especially in education. And so it is vitally important that we look at how best to utilize technology and blended learning from many vantage points.”

“The hallmark of Yachad is that we can reach a broad

gamut of Jewish life,” shares Batya. “It’s not just the Modern Orthodox, not just Charedi (Ultra Orthodox) – it’s really our ability to put 200 people from all parts of Jewish life together to learn from each other, people who all have the same goal of teaching Jewish children, of growing Jewish neshamot (souls). To me, that’s success.”

Of course, the success of all Yachad conferences is

determined by how many of the practices shared – whether in the classroom or within an agency – are implemented to any degree. “Remember that you are not doing this for a rush of gratification,” Deborah Berman stressed to a room full of case workers, “we do this because we strive to help others; we are doing God’s work.” For information on Continuing Education Conferences for disability services professionals contact Deborah Berman at to reach each child and how to juggle a class with so many different types of learners.” One of the topics addressed by the Election Day Conference was “blended learning,” a combination of direct teacher instruction combined with learning by computer. “Technology has infused virtually every aspect of our lives,”

BermanD@ou.org. For information on Educators’ Conferences contact Batya Jacob at BatyaJ@ou.org.

Batya Rosner is a staff writer at the Orthodox Union.

Belong 2014

29


The Team Yachad sTaff and parTicipanTs

thank YOU, our loyal Friends and Corporate Sponsors for Your

c o nTi n u e d

supporT

MiaMi Marathon and half Marathon JerusaleM Marathon

If you or your company might be interested in becoming a corporate sponsor for team yachad Miami or Jerusalem, please reach out to elI hagler at 212.613.8285 or haglere@ou.org.

c o n s i d e r r u n n i n g w i t h u s:

MiaMi 1/25/15; JerusaleM 3/13/15

www.teamyachad.com


Our Way Gemach: Changing Lives One Hearing Aid at a Time By Charlotte Friedland

“Imagine a child with a severe hearing loss being told that she can use a hearing aid while in school, but that when she goes home she must leave it in the classroom! For the rest of the day, she will not hear.” Audiologist Batya Jacob, director of Educational Services at Yachad, cringes in frustration at the thought, knowing well that this scenario is often the case. The problem is that hearing aids can cost from $1,500 – $5,000 each, and many people need two. Because hearing aids and listening devices are classified as “optional prosthetic devices” many insurance companies will not cover the cost. It doesn’t matter if the hearing-impaired individual is a child, adult or senior. If a family cannot afford a device, he or she will go through life not hearing teachers, family, music, religious services, and thousands of other sounds others take for granted. In some places, a child can receive a hearing aid on loan from the school district. But because it is school property, it cannot leave the premises. The child must muddle through the rest of the day and weekends trapped in a disability that could have been rectified. And that’s where the Our Way Hearing Aid Gemach (free loan agency) comes in. Batya thought of the idea three years ago and suggested it to Our Way Director Rabbi Eliezer Lederfeind. With his enthusiastic support, she started collecting used hearing aids and contacted a select number of hearing aid dealers nationwide who will work with the organization to fit the aid to the recipient’s ear. “It’s quite simple really,” she explains. “When someone needs a hearing aid, they send me their audiogram, essentially a copy of their hearing test results. I analyze the need and delve into my drawer full of donated hearing aids to find ones that will match their specifications. I send out two sets at a time for the recipient to try. They can use their

own dealer to fit it properly, or one we recommend.” The recipient keeps what can be used and sends back the rest. So far, the arrangement has worked well. There are twenty-five sets out right now, bringing the precious gift of sound to people of all ages. An infant born with severe hearing loss can develop in a normal auditory environment. A child can achieve success in school, play with friends and participate in family activities. A senior citizen can enjoy the company of friends; attend concerts, recreational activities and classes; and hear the voices of beloved grandchildren. “Of course, the system is not as perfect as I would like,” Batya acknowledges. “The aids don’t always fit or work just right. But having one is far better than not. It’s doing a lot of good.” Not content with simply providing free hearing aids, Batya spearheaded a campaign to have the classification of hearing devices legally changed by Congress from “optional” to “essential prosthetic devices.” Her petition was circulated by Our Way and delivered to members of Congress in February. “If we can get the status of these devices changed, insurance companies will be encouraged to pay for essential audiological testing, hearing aid devices and their maintenance,” she explains. "If that happens, there may no longer be a need for the Our Way Gemach, and that would be wonderful.” For information on the Our Way Hearing Aid Gemach contact batyaj@ou.org. To donate a hearing aid, please send it to Batya Jacob at: Our Way, 11 Broadway, 13th floor, New York, NY 10004. Charlotte Friedland is the editor of Belong.

Belong 2014

31


An Interview With

Batya Jacob By Shoshana Remer

There are only so many people in this world who illicit a positive response from everyone. Batya Jacob is one of those people.

When co-workers are asked to describe Batya, only wonderful things are said. “Batya is the educator of educators,” says Eli Hagler, Yachad associate director. “She is totally dedicated to the cause of Yachad.” Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman, Yachad’s international director, describes Batya as “a highly competent, multi-talented individual. She has been developing a program of national and international status that is equal to any disability program in our community.”

I am a social work intern at Yachad this year, and Batya has taught me so much about inclusion. She is one of the go-to people

in this organization. I can see the passion she has for Yachad and the sparkle in her eyes while talking about its members and their families. Let’s take a closer look at this devoted Yachad director and see the organization’s meaningful work from her perspective.

Q: HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN YACHAD? A: My youngest child was born with a hearing loss. I found out about the Our Way Program (a program run through NJCD for the hearing impaired) and started bringing him to programs. I learned a lot about Yachad. I realized I really loved teaching Torah and especially loved teaching Torah to kids who had challenges. So I went back to school and got a masters in teaching Hebrew curriculum. I sent out my resume to a local day school and Dr. Lichtman happened to be the head of the board of education at the time. He came to me and said, “I can hire you to teach, but I think I have a better fit.” We spoke a while and I came on as the program director for Our Way. I did a lot of different programming – trips to Israel, educational programming, and social events, all geared towards the Jewish deaf community.

Q: WHAT PART OF BEING YACHAD’S DIRECTOR OF EDUCATIONAL SERVICES APPEALS TO YOU? A: In order to include someone truly into the Jewish community — and Jewish life — they have to have an understanding of mitzvot and Torah. I believe every person can learn that at some level. It doesn’t have to mean looking up sources in a book in six different languages; there is an intrinsic feeling, a piece of each person’s soul that can relate to being Jewish. My goal has always been to include the children in this basic level of education. I have a nephew who is hard of hearing and both of his parents are deaf. When he was turning five, we went to look at schools for him. He is bright. His only issue is that he has a hearing impairment. There were schools that wouldn’t even sit down and talk to us because of that impairment. We couldn’t get them to understand there is so much more to a person than a pair of ears.

32

Belong 2014

Q: TELL ME ABOUT AN ACCOMPLISHMENT YOU CONSIDER THE MOST SIGNIFICANT IN YOUR CAREER. A: When I started here fifteen years ago, there were a handful of kids with special needs in regular day schools. We have really grown. Now most schools in the United States have some sort of a special needs classroom. I think that is a huge credit to Yachad, for taking on this initiative. It is the thing I am most proud of. I can say to a parent there is a place for your child and you are going to be able to educate that child.

Q: WHAT MOTIVATES YOU? A: My love for Judaism, my love for Hashem (God), my belief that no matter what, people are people, and my belief that all people are created by and therefore deserve the respect, the care, and the love of other people. I really think that is what motivates me to walk in here every morning. Sometimes it gets hard; it can be frustrating. But when I see the incredible results it’s worth the effort. I ran the first Birthright programs with Yachad. I went on the trip to Israel with the Yachad members, and Friday night we got to the Kotel. One of the Yachad members led the davening — with tears running down his face. He was absorbed in his love of Judaism, which is what we are all about. And there are so many more stories just like that which continue to inspire me and all of Yachad’s staff to continue working as hard as we do. That’s what motivates us – we see how we make a difference in people’s lives.

Shoshana Remer is a Yachad Social Work intern.


YAChAD presents: InternAtIonAL InCLusIon AnD speCIAL eDuCAtIon ConferenCe

Veteran’s Day

Tuesday November 11 2014

8:00 am - 4:45 pm

Maybe We Should

Teach The Way

Theylearn KeyNOTe SPeAKeR:

Dr. ross Greene HARvARd UNIveRSITy MedICAL SCHOOL FeATURed SPeAKeRS:

Dr. Bill Atwood, Dr. Kathy Johnson, Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman, Dr. Jay Lucker, Dr. Clarissa Willis LOCATION:

yeshiVat noam

Fee: $120 per educator

70 West Century Road, Paramus, New Jersey to regIster, vIsIt:

www.yachad.org/specialedconference pLeAse ContACt our offICe for group prICIng of 3 or more professIonALs from the sAme InstItutIon

551.404.4447 • 212.613.8127 • batyaj@ou.org Collaboration to provide the best possible Jewish, general, and special education for all students regardless of learning challenges or disabilities.

Adam Katzman, Jonathan Spiller, David Solooki, Beni Snow

My Guiding Light Hi! My name is Jonathan Spiller and I am a member of New England Yachad. Yachad makes me happy to be who I am and has given me so many great friends who support me all the time. A lot of my friends are high school students, but no one cares about my age. I have formed strong bonds with my friends from Yachad and they have fun hanging out with me at Yachad events and outside of Yachad. A few friends and I have gotten together to play basketball and get ice cream, just for fun. My friends always want to hear about how I am doing and we talk about my recent photography exhibits, recent movies I have seen, my watercolor painting class, and anything else I want to talk about. They are patient with me when I speak to them. Sometimes I hesitate when I speak because I am nervous, but I get encouragement from my friends and I take my time speaking. At Yachad, I am not judged in any way when I speak publicly, or in general. The people I’ve met through Yachad think of me as a true friend, and we support and learn from each other. I have learned a lot from my friends – most of all, that I can be myself and do things I like to do. I learned I am not too old to color on paper or go to Bugs Bunny festivals with friends, or to do anything else that I enjoy. High school Yachad participants, like the New England teens from Maimonides School and Gann Academy, are making a difference in people’s lives. My friends from Yachad motivate me to try new things. Yachad is a big part of my personal ner tamid, my guiding light. The light that shines from Yachad shines within me.

Yachad is an Agency of the Orthodox Union

Belong 2014

33


Yoel Balk, Eitan Wernick, JJ Goldstein, High School Leadership Conference 2013, Stamford, CT

Hineinu

By Stephen Steiner

A New Yachad Inclusion Initiative It all comes down to attitude. Of course, ramps and other physical adjustments are important, but it’s the attitude of the rabbi and leadership that determines if a synagogue is welcoming to individuals of all ages with visible and invisible disabilities. So says Deborah Berman, and she should know. As Yachad’s director of Social Work, Deborah is co-founder of the historic Hineinu initiative, which got underway following the fall holidays in 2013. Setting a remarkable precedent, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist leaders are working together in the first-ever formal collaboration of professionals to share resources and support in order to increase inclusion on the synagogue-level for people of all abilities and disabilities. “T h e p o i n t o f Hineinu is to make attitudinal changes in a shul,” explains

The point of Hineinu is to make attitudinal changes in a shul.

34

Belong 2014

Deborah. “Some synagogues may be physically accessible – and that’s well and good – but because of attitude, people with disabilities may not feel comfortable going there. For example, the parents of a child with autism may fear s/he will be considered disruptive. They fear judgment. So it’s great when a congregation cares enough to build a ramp, but did anyone from the shul ever go out into the community to actively engage persons and families with disabilities and let them know in no uncertain terms that they are welcome?” Hineinu was formed to change those attitudes – and yes, to work on accessibility factors as well. The representatives of synagogue movements across the religious spectrum, most prominently Mrs. Berman of Yachad, an agency of the OU, and Rabbi Lynne Landsberg of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, agree that this is not a religious initiative, and there will be no joint services. They do not engage in discussion of any of the issues that separate the various denominations of Judaism, effectively keeping the focus on the universal need for inclusion. The Hebrew word Hineinu means “We are here.” It is in the plural form to stress the principle that if synagogue


communities foster attitudes of inclusion and acceptance in a direct and meaningful way, this change will grow and develop into a wholly inclusive larger Jewish world. The first results are in. Hineinu is working. “At this point, we have several synagogues which have signed on to join us and are working with Yachad to set up their curriculum and disabilities activities for the year,” Deborah says. “We are serving as their disability development advisors at no cost, partnering with them on social programs, sensitivity training, accessibility, disability committees, and even seating arrangements.” As of this writing, there are eleven Orthodox synagogues taking part in the initiative, covering communities from the East Coast to Los Angeles, and north to Toronto. In these early stages, there is no attempt to have large numbers of participating shuls; the first group will serve as mentors to synagogues signing up in the months to come. A twenty-page Disability Inclusion Resource Guide for Rabbis is available for all participants. Among the original group is the new Lincoln Square Synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. When the building was designed, shul leadership and the architects kept the needs of those with disabilities very much in mind. “It’s a phenomenal building in terms of accessibility,” Deborah exclaims. “Everything is completely accessible in every way: bimah, Torah reading table, seating, bathrooms. It’s magical what they’ve done. They are very disability-centered. Yachad/ Hineinu is proud to partner with them on a variety of synagogue events this year including sensitivity trainings, lectures, Jonathan Spiller of NE Yachad and community social programming.” Rabbi Dovid Cohen, rav of the Young Israel of the West Side (Manhattan), is firmly behind the program. “We are thrilled to be partnering with Yachad on this most important Hineinu initiative,” he declares. “Our community is at the forefront of efforts on the West Side in inclusion of individuals with special needs. For instance, we all benefit each Shabbos from having an

eight-year-old boy with Down syndrome lead Adon Olam for the entire community in our sanctuary. And we look forward to our upcoming sports Olympics event that will i nteg r ate our community with the young adult special needs population and further solidify our relationship with Yachad.” Rabbi Benjamin J. Samuels of Congregation Shaarei Tefillah in Newton, MassaNate Woogen (Taglit-Birthright Israel December 2013) puts on chusetts, agrees. tefillin at the Kotel “We are excited to partner with the Hineinu initiative. At Shaarei Tefillah, we pride ourselves on our warm, welcoming Modern Orthodox community. However, we have learned over the years that creating a truly inclusive environment requires more than good will. A sincere call for inclusivity must be conveyed not only with greetings and invitations, but must be expressed through architecture and access, signage and programs. “The strength of a kehillah (community) should be measured not only in membership units but also by our manifest inclusivity and our capacity as a halachic community to learn and improve, to outreach and in-reach, to grow together through full encounter of Torah and mitzvot,” Rabbi Samuels explains. “Our participation in Hineinu is our way of continuing to respond to this Divine call and charge of hakhel, of inclusivity. We work hard to concretize this message through both our programming and publicity. We sincerely hope that by stepping up to say 'Here We Are,' we will inspire other shuls to do likewise, and we invite those who have previously felt without community to join us with their own 'Hineini – Here I am!'” For more information on Hineinu, contact Deborah Berman at Bermand@ou.org. Stephen Steiner is director of Public Relations of the Orthodox Union.

Belong 2014

35


Yachad’s DayHab Donates Aron Kodesh

A synagogue had no Torah ark after Hurricane Sandy ­— until Yachad Day Hab came to the rescue

Yachad members (L-R): Rosa Barr, Emile Berk, Sam Miller building the aron

By Bayla Sheva Brenner

Art instructor Sara Kramer led a brainstorming session A brilliant idea dawned on Josh Geiger, Yachad advisor, at the 2009 Yachad Family Shabbaton. After services, for the curtain design. Each member drew his/her ideas on the Torah was placed on a table, simply wrapped in a tallit. paper. Ultimately, they decided on a quilt block design to “It needs a proper home,” he thought. incorporate everyone’s particular vision. “What could be more fitting than The blocks depict images of the Chavie Moses spray painting an aron kodesh (Torah ark) Ten Commandment tablets, the built by Yachad members Kotel (Western Wall), a lion, themselves?” the flag of Israel, the Yachad When Josh told his logo, and the words, “Yachad colleague, Emile Berk, then means together.” vocational coordinator (whose As the aron grew, so father happens to be a profesto o di d each m em b er’ s sional carpenter), about the confidence. And when it was project idea, he jumped on it. completed, they were amazed Over an exciting, hardworking at their accomplishment. The six-month period, he guided stunning structure was as Yachad Day Hab (day program impressive in its size as it was for adults with disabilities) in its beauty. members through each phase Before an audience of of the construction: from its de700 participants, the Yachad sign, drilling, assembling, stainDay Hab members presented ing, and shellacking, to upholthe aron to Yachad at the stering the interior with velvet. 2010 Family Shabbaton. They 36

Belong 2014


Themed, Custom & ReadyMade Gift Baskets for Any Occasion at Any Budget! USE DISCOUNT CODE BELONG2014 FOR 10% OFF TOTAL ORDER Finished! Yachad member Igor Yaakubov proudly displays the aron.

documented their building process with a stirring slideshow and commentary from individual members. “Their faces glowed,” says Dr. Lichtman. “One of the members was jumping up and down, with the biggest smile on his face. To work together as a team, learning and applying skills towards the completion of a project – there is no better way to build self-esteem and no greater level of satisfaction.” For three years, the aron kodesh traveled to Yachad Family Shabbatonim and other hotel-based events, inspiring thousands of Yachad members and guests. But after Hurricane Sandy, Yachad was notified about a shul that had lost its aron kodesh in the storm. When the idea of donating it was "Their faces glowed..." suggested, there was no better feeling in the Yachad office that day. To help a congregation begin to get back on its feet was the obvious choice. Bais Yisroel of Bayswater (New York) welcomed Yachad’s generous offer and is proud to use the aron. As this unique aron brings solace and inspiration to the Queens, NY congregation, it also remains a source of pride to Yachad’s Day Hab members. After all, they designed and built it from scratch. “And they were able to contribute something that they created to the greater Jewish community,” says Emile, “something related to Torah and Yiddishkeit that was lasting. It gave them a feeling of pride, accomplishment – and above all, inclusion in the Jewish community at large.” For more information on Yachad Day Hab contact Jack Gourdji at gourdjij@ou.org.

855.505.7500 | info@yachadgifts.com All food products carry a nationally recognized kosher certification.

Bayla Sheva Brenner is a staff writer at the Orthodox Union. YACHAD IS AN AGENCY OF THE ORTHODOX UNION

Belong 2014

37


By Michal Grossman and Avital Listman We signed up for Yad B'Yad, Yachad’s Israel travel program for teens with and without disabilities, not knowing what to expect. It turned out to be a life-changing experience that inspired us to get further involved in Yachad. We had made long-lasting friendships and learned the importance of inclusion and of incorporating that mentality into our lives daily. As soon as we got back to school after the summer, we were eager to share our new passion and commitment to this cause with the rest of our school community. Yachad Youth Leadership Council (YYLC), Yachad’s board of active high school leaders from the New York Metropolitan area, gave us the tools to bring Yachad programming back to our school. We are grateful to our principal, Mrs. Neugroschl at Yeshiva University High School for Girls, for embracing our initiative. She allowed us to establish a Yachad Club at our school. We began the club by introducing participants

38

Belong 2014

to Yachad’s mission of inclusion, stressing its famous tagline “Because Everyone Belongs.” Our thirty club members took on organizing a school-wide sensitivity training – a simulation of what it may be like to have a disability, with guidance from Rebecca Schrag, Yachad’s director of School and Community Programming (and Yad B’Yad), and Laura Fruchter, director of Yachad’s program at Camp Morasha. Students left the sensitivity training with a greater appreciation of the tools they have, a greater degree of patience and empathy for their peers, a sense of commitment towards being more welcoming to their peers with disabilities and a thirst for more Yachad programming. Soon after, we were honored to host the Marilyn David IVDU Upper School – Girls Division (Yachad’s school for young women with disabilities) for a pre-Purim chagigah (party). We loved seeing girls of all abilities come together


About YYLC

Yachad Youth Leadership Council helps shape the future of Yachad

and implements programs of change within Yachad, schools and communities. Council members participate in leadership development opportunities and serve as inclusion liaisons for their various communities. Looking for relevant and creative ways to educate their communities and share their passions, members help construct and publicize local Yachad events, Shabbatonim and fundraisers. They bring sensitivity trainings, awareness campaigns and speakers on topics relating to disabilities to their local schools and synagogues. Once exposed to their enthusiasm, it’s hard not to join their stimulating projects!

This year YYLC is focusing on purposeful social media. For NAIM

(North American Inclusion Month), members created images with inclusion tips for every day of the month – for students, by students – under the tagline #28daysofinclusion. YYLC is currently launching a video competition where individuals can submit video shorts on topics surrounding disabilities.

For more infor mation on YYLC contact Rebecca Schrag (L-R) Michal Grossman, Avital Listman

at SchragR@ou.org or 212-613-8223.

to usher in the Purim spirit. And we received great feedback from IVDU Upper School as well as from our friends and faculty at school. Proud to be a part of real change within our school, we feel so empowered every time a peer asks us about using sensitive “person first” language, how to get Yachad apparel, or how to get involved in upcoming events and Shabbatonim. We love the leadership role Yachad empowers us to take, and the position it gives us in our school community. We look forward to our school’s continued involvement with Yachad’s important work and seeing where the Yachad Club will go next. Yachad has changed our personal lives so much that we did something we never thought was possible: we joined Team Yachad 2014. Running 13.1 miles in Miami with Team Yachad, in support of inclusion,

was quite an achievement. It was really hard, but what got us through it was the thought that we were doing it for a cause that means so much to us.

As we began to think about our plans for

the upcoming summer, we couldn’t give up the opportunity to spend it with Yachad. This summer, we will both participate in Yachad’s Morris Sandelbaum High School Fellowship Program.

This fellowship

places students going into 12th grade as staff members in one of Yachad’s summer programs. We were both lucky enough to be given the opportunity to work in Camp Morasha, our first choice. Michal Grossman and Avital Listman are Juniors at Samuel H. Wang Yeshiva University High School for Girls.

Belong 2014

39


WHAT

INCLUSION

Isabelle Glickman, Rebecca Aryeh, Raizy Abittan, Elizabeth Berger

MEANS TO ME

Jacob Mendelson, Yoni Goldberg

Elizabeth Berger, Yoni Rabanipour

Danielle Harris

Avital Listman, Hanna Tessel, Leelah Paul

40

Belong 2014


YACHAD/NJCD, AN AGENCY OF THE ORTHODOX UNION, IS DEDICATED TO ENHANCING THE LIFE OPPORTUNITIES OF INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES, ENSURING THEIR PARTICIPATION IN THE FULL SPECTRUM OF JEWISH LIFE.


s ’ d a h YInclausicve Summer

s m a r g o r P Camp

cialization, Fostering So and Fun for Independence eeds ith Special N individuals w

CAMPER PROGRAMs

Children and young adults ages 8-21 Camp activities with typically developing campers

TRAVEL/Vacation PROGRAMs young adults ages 17-45 Participants vacation and tour the US and Israel

SHADOW PROGRAMs

Children ages 9-15 Campers are placed within a mainstream bunk

VOCATIONAL PROGRAMs

young adults ages 22-30 Participants enjoy job satisfaction and develop life skills with job coaches

For more information contact: yachadsummer@ou.org | 212.613.8369 www.yachad.org/summerprograms

Yachad Programs Take Place In:

Yachad Is an agencY of The orThodox UnIon


Belong Magazine 2014