Evenings can be quiet, and sometimes extremely lonely for adults with special needs. Those who live at home need activities to do and events to attend in the evenings with friends, as well as ways to keep their minds sharp, just like others their own age. “Adults with special needs face unique challenges. While their peers and siblings will often move away and marry, these adults may be left lacking socially,” said Ariela Balk, of Englewood, who has commemorated the recent first yahrzeit of her husband, Mendel, with the creation of the Mendel Balk Yachad Adult Community Center. The center, which is being built at the Yachad New Jersey Headquarters at Heichal HaTorah, is located at 70 Sterling Place in Teaneck.
The center will include a lounge as well as a dining area where dinner will be served nightly. The space will have an activity area to support themed programming that will be offered four evenings a weeks. “Yachad has been extremely collaborative in exploring this opportunity and addressing the challenges in offering a nightly program. I am excited to find a special way to honor Mendel as well as help enhance Yoel’s life and many others in similar situations,” Balk said. Yoel is Ariela and Mendel’s son and has been part of Yachad for many years, participating in shabbatonim, summer programs and vocational services.
The Mendel Balk Yachad Adult Community Center will open its doors on Monday, February 27th, and will run initially for 16 weeks, through Thursday, June 22, when many adults depart for summer programming. The center will be open from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Racheli (Ambinder) Israeli, a veteran Yachad staff member, will be the program director for the new center. She brings years of experience to the position, having served as a Yachad chapter coordinator, several summers as a Yad B’Yad counselor and most recently as the assistant program director of Yad B’Yad.
NJ Yachad enlisted the help of interior decorator Basi Eisenberg, owner of http://www.mblivingofficial.com, who volunteered her time to help the Yachad team design the layout of the new center and has worked to make the space beautiful. She has helped the Yachad team carry out their vision for the look and feel of the room. “My vision for New Jersey Yachad has always been to meet the needs of the whole family. To look for ways in which we can continue to grow and serve individuals with special needs, enhancing their lives in the most meaningful ways,” said Chani Herrmann, director of NJ Yachad. “Ariela Balk’s incredible generosity is a testament to who the Balk family is. Whenever I spoke with Mendel, z”l, he would always speak with such pride about all of his children. I would often send him pictures of Yoel at Yachad events, knowing it would bring him great joy to see Yoel smiling and being with his close friends.”
Balk agreed that Mendel would truly appreciate seeing Yoel happy. “Mendel was an amazing father and was especially wonderful with Yoel,” Balk said. “He carried him around everywhere as a baby and young child and shared his love of people with Yoel,” she added.
“We are honored that Ariela has given us the honor to carry on Mendel’s name through this one-of-a-kind Yachad Center. The Mendel Balk Yachad Adult Community Center is going to make a huge impact on the entire community, engaging Yachad participants, high school students, college students and beyond. The center will be the place to be!” said Herrmann.
“Working closely with me on this special project is NJ Yachad staff member, Elinor Solomon. Elinor, an integral part of Yachad’s programming team, has been instrumental in helping to launch the center, working tirelessly to overseeing the project with such incredible attention to detail.”
“All of us at the OU share in the excitement of the opening of The Mendel Balk Yachad Adult Community Center,” said Allen Fagin, Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union. “We are deeply grateful to the Balk family for their extraordinary generosity. This new center will allow Yachad to substantially expand its inclusive programming in a warm and embracing environment. It is truly a unique endeavor for Yachad, one we hope we can replicate in other communities as well.”
“The Mendel Balk Yachad Adult Community Center will be a groundbreaking program which will truly change the landscape of services provided by NJ Yachad,” said Ken Saibel, Associate Director of Yachad.
A new Yachad van will be purchased in order to facilitate transportation home from the Center, allowing parents a break from driving and creating more independence for our young adults.
For more information about The Mendel Balk Yachad Adult Community Center please contact [email protected] or call 201-833-1349.