Thursday, March 30, 2023

As the Yachad Gala Dinner to be held on March 20 quickly approaches, there is so much to be thankful for. Watching the organization expand its service in a state-of-the-art facility in the heart of Teaneck has been a source of true satisfaction, particularly to the dynamic individuals who stand at the helm of the program. Raquel (Rocky) Selevan, the Yachad New Jersey director; Larry Rein, the New Jersey development director; and Chani Herrmann, the associate director of Yachad Community Engagement, are thrilled at the dynamic program which currently exists for their clientele. The three professionals are looking forward to the local communities of Teaneck, Passaic, Fort Lee, Englewood, West Orange, Highland Park, and other surrounding areas coming out to honor the special individuals and families who are being honored this year for their efforts on behalf of the organization.

Honored this year with the Women’s Leadership Award is Abbie Sophia of Teaneck. Sophia is well-known in the community as a talented photographer, specializing in lifecycle events. In addition to her professional life, she is a longtime friend and photographer for Yachad New Jersey, spending many hours at the center capturing special moments of Yachad New Jersey programming. She brings so much positive energy to our members and to all of the programs in which she participates.

The Business Leadership Award will be bestowed upon Jeffery Wilder of Fort Lee and his son-in-law Sean Charnow of Woodcliff Lakes. As the owners of Wilder Ventures Hotel Investments, they own Best Western Hotels in several cities throughout the US. In their Paramus location, they employ JUF(Jewish Union Foundation) participant Micah Lippe of Fair Lawn, who works for the caretaking and maintenance departments. JUF New Jersey, their adult day services division, serves post-21 young adults. Wilder and Charnow are impressed by the capabilities and work ethic that Lippe has displayed and look forward to employing additional JUF/Yachad participants in the future.

When asked how he became familiar with Yachad, Wilder eagerly shared, “I learned about Yachad and its mission through a congregant, Rabbi Mark Karasick, at our shul, The Young Israel of Fort Lee. Through the prism of the young staffer they placed at our Best Western Hotel and Suites in Paramus, and the dedicated Yachad support team that integrated him into our operation over the past 2 years, we came to fully appreciate the valuable mission Yachad daily succeeds at accomplishing for the young people it serves. As a business owner who has just honored our Yachad teammate as our 2022 Employee of the Year, I urge all employers to reach out to Yachad New Jersey to screen and place qualified young people in available positions. They will be assured of dedicated service!”

The Yachad Family Award will be presented to the Gorelik family of Passaic. Rabbi David Gorelik, who works as the rabbinic co-ordinator for the kashruth department of the OU, and his wife, Jacki, are truly grateful to Yachad for the opportunities the organization and its myriad programs have offered to their son, Eli. Eli attends both the JUF and Yachad social activities year-round, enjoying so much of what Yachad offers. During the day, Eli is busy at Seasons working in a variety of capacities at the expansive supermarket in Clifton. He also works as an intern at The Jewish Link offices in Teaneck twice weekly where he is a delightful presence.

Rabbi Gorelik shared, “Yachad is special to us because it fosters inclusion for all types of people. Yachad’s programs make everyone feel they are an integral part in our society.”

The upcoming Gala will also mark the fifth anniversary since the launching of the Mendel Balk Yachad Center, which was made possible through the generosity and vision of Ariela Balk-Esquenazi of Englewood. Yoel Balk, the son of Mendel Balk z”l, has been an active participant in the activities of the Yachad Center since its inception. The Mendel Balk Yachad Center is located on the third floor of the facility in a beautiful space which houses recreational facilities such as an air-hockey machine, a dual basketball arcade game, a foosball table and other exciting games and equipment. The Mendel Balk Yachad Center is a “home-away-from-home” experience and operates every weeknight from 4-7 p.m.. Each night offers a different selection of fun and skilled-based activities. Volunteers from the community join the programming on a regular basis, offering everyone the opportunity to connect.

The final awards of the evening will be presented to the dedicated high school seniors who volunteer weekly at Yachad. The student volunteers join them in sports, arts and crafts, listening to and making music and many other activities. This past week volunteers worked alongside participants in packing Mishloach Manot for Purim. The young high school volunteers are truly setting an example of chesed and caring by engaging with the Yachad young adults in an atmosphere of friendship and camaraderie.

The High School Senior Leadership Awards will go to Frisch seniors Lielle Holzer, Talia Lumerman, Jonathan Paul, Aliza Poloner, Eliana Saibel, Hanna Schachter and Kayla Schiff. Atara Ambinder and Ariella Rudner of Bruriah and Paya Gellman of Ma’ayanot will be honored as well. Kudos to the families and schools that encourage their students to be communal leaders.

The upcoming Yachad New Jersey Gala will be held on Monday, March 20, at Congregation Ahavath Torah, 240 Broad Avenue in Englewood. The cocktail hour begins at 7 p.m..

To register, go to www.yachad.org/njgala

By Pearl Markovitz

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