July 21, 2024
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July 21, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Albany–In a ceremony presented by the NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, Boro Park Lumber in Brooklyn was First Runner-Up for the 2014 WORKS FOR ME recognition award in the category of Employer of the Year: Small Business. The award honors both the company for its workforce-diversity commitment through hiring employees with developmental disabilities, and the valued contributions of an employee, in this case, Tzvi Styler, 33, formerly of Teaneck.

At the awards presentation at The New York State Museum in Albany, Tzvi’s parents, Drs. Steve and Marianne Styler, sat proudly in the audience. Despite Tzvi’s challenges, with the help and encouragement of his parents and the Teaneck community, he has accomplished a great deal. This award is a recognition of some of his achievements.

“We didn’t realize quite how big a selection process goes into choosing the winners,” says Marianne. “The state reviews the job site, the employer, and the employee. The entire thrust of the program is to make the community sensitive to how developmentally disabled people can be productive, and also to make the employee feel appreciated and be integrated into society.” Tzvi has been benefiting from this program for the two years he has been working at Boro Park Lumber.

Since moving out of Teaneck seven years ago, Tzvi has been living in the Ohel Bais Ezra group home on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He loves the Lower East Side, his mother says. Praising the hospitality of the neighborhood, she adds that “People invite him for Friday night dinner and Shabbos lunch all the time.” Although now home to many ethnic groups, the Lower East Side, historically a Jewish area, still offers plentiful synagogue choices. Tzvi favors attending the Young Israel, Chabad, and the landmark Bialystoker Synagogue.

“It depends on the day and the mood he is in,” says Marianne. The group home helps with the arrangements of integrating the home’s residents into the synagogues and the community.

Frequently someone from a local shul will ask Tzvi to come to help make a minyan. Tzvi cannot read, but he knows the davening by heart. From a young age Tzvi and his father would go to shul together every Shabbat.

“His father taught Tzvi to daven,” says Marianne. “Steve would daven out loud the entire service, and that’s how Tzvi learned. My husband has earned multiple life times in Gan Eden,” she says. “And,” she adds with a smile, “he doesn’t even think his devotion and dedication to this kid is beyond what anyone else would do. But, really, I think his efforts are almost beyond human.”

Setting his eye on new accomplishments, Tzvi is learning to be a shliach tzibur, to lead a congregation in prayer.

A rabbi volunteers to learn with the residents of the home, Marianne explains. “Tzvi requested that the rabbi teach him to daven from the amud. So that’s what he is doing now when he is not at work.”

“It’s slow, but it’s going,” Marianne says. Parents of the people in the home have meetings with the staff to help determine the residents’ goals for the coming months.

Subway riding was a goal Tzvi had to accomplish to work at the Brooklyn store. And subways can be difficult to navigate. “He needs to change subways three times,” Marianne says. “But now he even has his own Metro card.”

In addition to what Tzvi learns through the helpful interventions of the home, he has evolved a unique way of setting up his world. He functions in a universe based on Judaism. “He cannot read but he davens all the time,” says Marianne. “He knows the entire year only by the parsha of the week. He doesn’t know how to connect time in any other way.”

When he elaborates on his social life, Marianne explains, “He’ll say ‘for this parsha I am going to these people and for this parsha I am coming home.’ That’s how he understands the world.”

Tzvi also has a deep comprehension of the concepts of tzedakah and chesed. From his salary he donates money to the woman who was his babysitter,” says Marianne. “The money he supplies to her makes a major difference in her life.”

When Tzvi lived in Teaneck, his parents recruited local high school students to teach him Judaic studies. The former students still stay in touch. Tzvi is frequently invited to weddings of his former chavrutas. “Everyone is impacted by their interaction with him; some still volunteer to study with him,” Marianne says.

Torah Academy of Bergen County alum David Pincus remembers Tzvi–“especially his great smile and his happy attitude”–from their study times. That same mega-watt smile has also endeared Tzvi to customers and staff at Boro Park Lumber.

A side benefit of the job is the location, location, location. Steve Styler’s busy pediatric practice is in Boro Park.

Steve has added a new stop on his commute to Brooklyn. He stops by each day to deliver a big hug to a particular Boro Park Lumber employee and on Thursdays, in addition to the hug, Tzvi gets a pre-Shabbos bracha from his father.

Helen Weiss Pincus is a freelance writer and exercise consultant.

By Helen Weiss Pincus

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