May 23, 2024
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Frisch Hosts Friendship Circle Winter Camp

Once again, The Frisch School served as host to the Friendship Circle of Bergen County’s Winter Camp. The program, which ran during the public school winter break, provided special needs children and teens with a variety of activities, which included field trips and programs on the Frisch campus.

Zeesy Grossbaum, director of the Friendship Circle of Bergen County, explained that many Jewish special needs students attend public school, even if they have siblings in day school. For these families, as well as other families with special needs children who simply did not go away during the school vacation, the camp was a perfect fit.

This is the fifth year Frisch hosted the winter camp. The school also hosts the Friendship Circle’s Teen Scene three Wednesdays a month, which provides special needs adolescents ages 13-21 the opportunity to socialize with neurotypical teenage volunteers.

“The Frisch kids are really amazing,” said Grossbaum. “Some of them do home visits [for children with special needs] even without a chesed hours requirement from school.”

Josh Schulman, Frisch’s Director of Chesed Programming, as well as a member of the school’s Talmud faculty and Grade Dean for the Junior class, organized different shifts of Frisch students to volunteer during the morning and afternoon sessions each day of the program.

The winter program is one of several Chesed Days Schulman organizes for Frisch students. During the school year, students also meet with residents of nursing homes, prepare and serve food in soup kitchens, clean Jewish cemeteries and build Sukkot for senior citizens.

“The camp fosters a magical air of kindness and sensitivity that permeates the walls of our classrooms and hallways,” said Schulman.

About 50 students worked with the Friendship Circle during each shift of the camp. Each student was paired with a “buddy,” a special needs participant of the camp. In the morning, the volunteers and their buddies went on trips to the bowling alley, World of Wings, Billy Beez, Jump on In and Funplex. The afternoon activities included sports, arts and crafts, baking, games an animal show and a magic show.

“They [the students] began not knowing what to expect of their Friendship Circle buddy, themselves, and this relatively foreign experience,” said Schulman. “Yet they walked away feeling amazing about their interactions with their new friends, their newly found talents and capabilities, and the internal satisfaction gained from having had the opportunity to be involved in such a meaningful endeavor.”

Atara Schonbrun, a Frisch 11th grader from White Plains, spent one shift at the winter camp. The next day, she said, “I saw the kid I hung out with yesterday through the window waving at me, so I decided to come in during my lunch period and hang out. I just really like hanging out with David.”

“It’s great!” said Avidan Rudansky, a Frisch 11th grader from Westchester, about the camp. “I love helping with the kids.”

Chani Krinsky, Friendship Circle of Bergen County program director, said about the camp, “It’s a lot of fun. We have a good time here. The kids love it and the volunteers love it. I’m not sure who loves it more.”

The Friendship Circle provides many other programs for children with special needs and their families. Upcoming events include Sunday Circle and Super Sibs for Boys. The next Sunday Circle, a two-hour program for children ages 4-18 includes such activities as music, art, baking, sports and entertainment. It will be held on Sunday, January 11th from 12-2 p.m., at RYNJ. The next Super Sibs for Boys, a support group for boys in 1st through 5th grade who have siblings with special needs, will meet on Sunday, January 11th, at 6:30 p.m., at the Friendship Circle.

For more information on Friendship Circle programming or volunteer opportunities, visit their website at http://www.bcfriendship.com or call 201-262-7172.

By Tova Domnitch

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