July 24, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Art For All The Yachad Way

Englewood–Wide smiles and happy relaxed faces, that’s the way it is Tuesdays at 7 p.m. at The Art Place. Yachad runs the organization’s first ever inclusion art class taught by Sarah Friedman. “We began this program three years ago with a generous funding given by Linda and Marc Karasick in memory of Linda’s mother Ruth Ulevitch Lang who was an artist,” said Chani Herrmann, Director of NJ Yachad.

“At Yachad, we don’t run any programs unless it follows the inclusion model of bringing together individuals with and without special needs, for fun, for socialization and to learn from each another,” said Herrmann. Yachad, a division of The National Jewish Council for Disabilities, is the only international organization promoting inclusion for children and adults with disabilities in the broader Jewish community.

The weekly classes are for teens 15 and older in junior high and high school with participants coming from all different schools. They have varying degrees of religious observance, intellectual ability and social skills and together they sit and create art. “It’s exciting for both the Yachad members and the other participants. When you see them sitting there you don’t see the difference, there really is no difference between them,” said Reva Judas, program coordinator.

Creative art can be therapeutic for all kids. By default it is one of the ultimate forms of self-expression offering a freedom to explore without added pressure to be perfect or correct. Therefore this inclusive art program is an ideal vehicle, bridging the social divide between developmentally challenged young people and their peers. “This is not a typical art class, we keep the size small, they help each other while learning and having fun,” said Herrmann.

With eighteen chapters around the country, Israel and Canada, Yachad is making significant strides impacting the lives of member families and participating families alike, creating awareness and celebrating diversity. “We get calls all the time from parents who say, ‘my child came home happy today, thank you.’ Inevitably participants talk about it to their friends and we get another child to sign up,” Judas said. “Because they really do have fun. In fact, they connect and make new relationships all the time. We recently had a girl invite the entire art class to her bat mitzvah. It’s so nice to see these relationships form,” said Judas.

Recognizing the staggering financial weight many families are saddled with, Yachad makes their programming possible regardless. “We are heavily subsidized, which makes classes affordable and we also offer generous scholarships so no one is ever turned away,” said Herrmann. The inclusive format is an element that transcends a typical disabilities program, something the entire community can be proud of.

There are still a few spots in the Inclusive Art class which runs through December with a new session beginning in February. Don’t miss NJ Yachad’s 2nd Annual Bergen County Fundraising Breakfast Reception October 26 at 9:15 a.m. at the Kleinberg home. For more info contact Reva Judas at 201-833-1349 [email protected]. The Art Place 490 Curry Rd. Englewood www.artplacenj.com

By Elyse Hansford

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