June 9, 2024
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400 Celebrate Inclusion at Yachad NJ Gala

An enthusiastic community of friends and advocates turned out to attend the Orthodox Union’s (OU) Yachad New Jersey annual gala this past Motzei Shabbat at Congregation Keter Torah, honoring Ken and Mindy Saibel of West Orange; Jeff and Ilana Gdanski of Englewood; Rachel Cyrulnik of Teaneck; and Moshe and Dena Kinderlehrer and their children, Tamar, Zev, Noam and Eyal, also from Teaneck.

For the first time, Yachad, the leading group for individuals with disabilities in the Orthodox community, recognized 14 high school seniors with the Mendel Balk Yachad Center Awards, recognizing the students’ deep commitment to Yachad and inclusion. They included Ahuva Ross (Bergenfield), Atara Herrmann (Teaneck), Brian Racer (Teaneck), Jack Kasindorf (Tenafly), Leah Wenger (Bergenfield), Rachel Gelb (Teaneck), Racheli Schacter (Teaneck), Raimy Vogel (Teaneck), Sammy Chasen (Suffern), Sarah Schechter (Englewood), Tamar Berman (Teaneck), Zachary Adler (Teaneck), Yonina Weinberg (Teaneck) and Kayla Saidel (Bergenfield).

The Mendel Balk Center Awards honor graduating seniors who have spent their high school years volunteering at the Yachad Center on an ongoing basis and have demonstrated a sincere commitment to contributing to the community. These students have set an example for others and have led efforts in their schools to get others involved.

At the gala, the Saibels launched the Debby Cohen Ahavat Chesed Fund, named in memory of Mindy’s mother. The funds will go toward Yachad’s needs each year, and for this year they will go toward a sefer Torah that will be housed at the Yachad/NJCD’s Individualized Vocational Development Unit School, Ivdu, located in Brooklyn. It will travel to wherever Yachad needs use of it, including for shabbatons.

Ken and Mindy Saibel’s involvement in Yachad began with their daughter’s participation in Yachad Summer Programs, where she introduced the family to this special organization. Later, Ken became the director of development at Yachad.

Ilana and Jeff Gdanski were honored with the Keter Shem Tov Award. Their involvement with Yachad began with their children who volunteered during high school. The Gdanskis have hosted fundraisers and volunteer at the Yachad Center.

Rachel Cyrulnik was honored with the Women’s Leadership Award. She began work with Yachad when she was a high school participant on the first Yad B’Yad summer program in 1998. Since then, she has organized local shabbatonim in her community and consulted on various projects for Yachad New Jersey.

The Kinderlehrer family has been involved with Yachad for many years. Both Dena and Moshe are siblings of Yachad participants and grew up attending the various Yachad events in the New York area and in Montreal, Canada, where Dena’s mother, Nina Glick, was the founding director of the Montreal chapter. Moshe’s family was one of the founding families of the organization. Moshe and Dena are also the parents of Zev, a Yachad participant who has been involved with activities since he was a small child.

“Yachad is one of the cornerstone programs of the OU and plays a critical role in bringing important programs, services and Torah education to participants and their families. We are grateful to the support our honorees have given us over the years and the huge participation the gala received in New Jersey,” said OU President Moishe Bane.

“The Orthodox Union takes enormous pride in Yachad and the impact it has made on our community,” said OU Executive Vice President Allen Fagin. “It has become one of our community’s most treasured resources and we thank tonight’s honorees for their support in helping us achieve our vision of creating an inclusive world.”

“The Saibels, Gdanskis, Kinderlehrers and Rachel Cyrulnik have been incredible supporters of Yachad NJ,” said Yachad Associate Director Chani Herrmann. “We’re also very excited to honor 14 high school seniors with the Mendel Balk Yachad Center Awards. Their dedication and leadership is inspiring.”

All photos courtesy of Ulrich Studios.

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