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Thursday, December 08, 2022
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An amazing launch of the Mendel Balk Yachad Center (MBYC) Thursday Mishmar Program.

Over the past two Thursday nights, I have participated in a unique program that I must share with our readers: The Thursday night Mishmar Program at the Teaneck-based Mendel Balk Yachad Center (MBYC). As many know, I am the father of a sweet and special young man, Zev, who is now 21 and is currently in his final year at our local public high school special ed program. After Zev’s school ends at around 3 p.m., Zev comes home for an hour and then my wife takes him to the MBYC at 4 p.m. for his favorite three hours of every day. Zev loves being there with his friends, volunteers from local schools, and the MBYC staff members who are there nightly and do all kinds of different activities. Zev always looks forward to going and is always smiling when I pick him up. We feel lucky to have this respite program in our lives because it is good for Zev, enables my wife to go out more easily on evening errands and trips, and it enables us to spend quality time with our other children.

The MBYC evening program has been running for a few years and thankfully resumed full-force after COVID subsided a year or so ago. Last fall, my friend and Bayit Association co-founder Adam Chill came up with a great idea. Adam is also the parent of Sam, a Yachad member and MBYC attendee and one of the sweetest young men I know. Adam’s idea was to create a Thursday night Mishmar program at MBYC, whereby Yachad would invite and host weekly a different local rabbi who would come and spend quality time with the MBYC participants, in the form of speaking directly with the participants, saying a d’var Torah and/or inspirational story or two, and maybe even help to run a kumzitz or something musical. The rabbis would also be asked to consider inviting key shul members and youth from their respective shuls, if possible.

I thought it was a great idea and Adam made it his personal mission to make it a reality. He doggedly pursued the issue with the leadership of NJ Yachad, led by Raquel (Rocky) Selevan and Leora Verbit, and convinced them it was a good idea. He personally drafted the invitation letter to all of the local rabbonim and made sure it was sent out and started inviting local rabbis personally and directly to consider
spending an hour or so once or twice annually on a Thursday. The response wasn’t overwhelming initially, but a number of rabbis did sign up and participated in the newly minted program. We heard excellent feedback from the rabbis who did sign up, and from our sons who attended. We hoped it would only grow and grow.

Two weeks ago, Adam let me know that the rav of his shul, Cong. Bnai Yeshurun (CBY), Rabbi Elliot Schrier, was coming to the mishmar program, along with other members of CBY, and invited me to come and see it for myself. I said yes immediately as I was looking forward to seeing my son and to seeing Rabbi Schrier in action with the young adults at Yachad.

When I arrived a few minutes late, Rabbi Schrier was already engaging in a wonderful repartee with each of the Yachad members. He knew all of their names and it was clear that the Yachad audience was super-warm, receptive and positive to him. They loved interacting with him as he spoke first about the parsha and about Avraham Avinu as a leading “introducer,” as coined by Sam Chill, and the MBYC members loved having him there.

After the parsha discussion, the whole room got up and sang and danced for a solid 20+ minutes or so, with a lot of musical help from CBY members Chaim Kiss, AJ Schreiber, Johnny Shlagbaum, Dr. Doron Katz and Gavriel Katz. The dancing was quite lively and spirited and we were all happy to be in the same room together. When the singing and dancing ended, the program then concluded with cholent and potato kugel. It was a special night and I loved being there.

For the following Thursday (last Thursday night), I heard that my own rav, Rabbi Larry Rothwachs, was going to be the featured rabbi at the Mishmar program. How could I not go to that one also? So I went. When I got there, Rabbi Rothwachs already knew many of the Yachad members and I know my son got a real kick out of having his own rabbi there. The rabbi led a powerful and meaningful discussion about the parsha with interaction from virtually everyone participating. This was followed, again, by a nice round of ruach-filled singing and some dancing as well. Another great Yachad mishmar night!

While I am not sure how many more I will be able to attend this year, I call upon all of our area’s leading rabbis and educators to consider volunteering and signing up for a Thursday night mishmar at the MBYC. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

If you interested in signing up for the Thursday night mishmar program for the rest of the academic year 2022-2023, please contact Rocky Selevan, director of Yachad NJ; at  201-499-7868 Ext.310  or by email at [email protected].

By Moshe Kinderlehrer/Publisher, The Jewish Link

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