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Into the Heart of the Community: Celebrating NJ Yachad’s Expansion

Teaneck—At this year’s NJ Yachad Breakfast Reception on October 25, word on the street isn’t just about the wonderful, dedicated honorees and exciting new programs, but also the joy of moving into a larger and beautiful new facility at the Teaneck Jewish Center. For the last decade, NJ Yachad, part of the National Jewish Council for Disabilities within the Orthodox Union, has operated out of the OU’s NCSY New Jersey headquarters on Queen Anne Road. Yachad’s fastest-growing program, vocational training, began four years ago with one participant, and now it has 18 participants. The participants are a diverse group with different abilities and strengths.

The Teaneck Jewish Center, which has a gym, an exercise room and even a swimming pool in addition to classrooms, also hosts the new boys’ yeshiva high school Heichal HaTorah, led by Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Aryeh Stechler. Now, Yachad participants can add davening mincha with the Heichal students, a boys’ sports clinic and a girls’ dance program to its wide variety of offerings. And that’s just the new programs developed since the summer began.

Herrmann explained that in addition to the daily programming, the vocational training participants have with their coaches with morning programming, lunch programming such as food preparation and nutrition seminars with local nutritionist Gila Guzman, the participants also have room to spread out for their drama courses (which teach problem solving and interpersonal communication), workplace training and life skills sessions. Yachad’s family programming, which include parents’ support groups and Sibshops, are also now hosted in the new facility, and the variety of rooms of different sizes also includes space for individual family consultations.

“It can be a frightening time for parents when their children finish school, typically at the age of 21,” said Herrmann. “The school bus stops coming and there isn’t as much structure available. We are happy to be able to offer a variety of employment options for our young men and women,” she said.

Herrmann explained that NJ Yachad works collaboratively with many institutions to make its vocational training program successful, and that the strides that have been made in recent years by other inclusive, state-of-the-art, special needs programs in the Bergen County community and beyond is one of the reasons for the increased demand for vocational training programs for special needs students at the conclusion of their formal educations. “There is an ever-increasing need for vocational training and placement services for young adults with special needs and Yachad has continued to be a resource for this population,” said Rabbi Dr. Yisroel Rothwachs, dean of SINAI Schools.

Rabbi Michael and Bassie Taubes and family are the guests of honor at this year’s reception. Truly a “Yachad family,” their son Yosef has been involved since childhood, and now he is part of the vocational training program.

The Taubes’ family connection to Yachad is both broad and personal. “Bassie Taubes has run multiple half marathons on behalf of Yachad, and the family hosted the opening of NJ Yachad in their home 10 years ago,” said Herrmann. Rabbi Taubes, in addition to being rabbi of Congregation Zichron Mordechai in Teaneck, is also Rosh Yeshiva and Head of School at the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy (MTA) in Manhattan. “They are great role models, and deserving honorees,” she added.

Receiving the Vocational Training Award this year is Lillian Lee of Teaneck’s Lillian Lee Salon. A big believer in inclusion for many years, Lee has hosted a Yachad participant who has been taught to beautifully wash and style wigs for Do Wonders, Lee’s charity for cancer patients. Lillian’s brother also participates in Yachad programs.

Lee also has run multiple days of beauty at the salon for Yachad’s young women, spending time with them on proper nail care, hair care, skin and hygiene. “All the staff donated their time,” said Herrmann.

Receiving the Community Inclusion Award is Debbie Greenwald, who is owner of the Art Place in Englewood. Greenwald and the Art Place are host to the Ruth Ulevitch Lang Inclusive Art Program sponsored by Linda and Mark Karasick and family, in memory of Linda’s mother, who was an artist. “The program is run at the Art Place. It brings kids together with and without special needs, and they do a beautiful end-of-the-year art show for all the students to display their work,” said Herrmann.

The national Yachad organization also runs two trips to Israel each year in collaboration with Birthright Israel, and monthly shabbatonim, which provide socialization for Yachad participants and respite for their parents. Those interested should be in touch with Chani Herrmann at [email protected].

RSVP for the breakfast at www.yachad.org/njbreakfast15, which will be October 25, 9:15 am-11:00 am, at the home of Miriam and Allen Pfeiffer at 400 Warwick Avenue, in Teaneck.

By Elizabeth Kratz

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