February 26, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Support Yachad NJ Next Motzei Shabbat, January 6

Our family went through a major transition in the past few months with our now 22-year-old son. Zev formally graduated from his longtime special education program at our local Teaneck High School (THS), where he had been a student since he was 14.

For Zev, Teaneck HS was a familiar and comfortable place where he knew most of the faculty, staff and students, and most knew Zev. We still enjoy walking around town and having graduates of Teaneck HS come over and say hi to Zev or let us know that they remember him from their years there and how they remember his smile or how happy he seemed. And strikingly to us, Zev usually remembers their first name, even if he hadn’t seen them for many years or barely knew them. We still can’t understand or know how good Zev’s memory is or isn’t and he always surprises us with what he knows and remembers. I believe many parents of children with special needs/autism/IDD feel this way also about their kids.

As all special education parents know, the government ends education funding at the age of 21 and for many, the burning and lifelong question is: What’s next?

Some of Zev’s peers have been able to find meaningful jobs or are participating in vocational or work training programs throughout northern New Jersey. But for many like Zev, the next step is to find a good day habilitation program where our son can socialize with his peers, participate in a structured daily and weekly program full of activities, maybe work once or twice a week in the community, and hopefully continue to grow and learn to the best of his ability.

For us, the program we chose to send him to is the program run by Yachad NJ in its Teaneck office. Known as the JUF program, this Yachad daytime program is where Zev has been going since September and I am happy to report that my wife and I are overall incredibly happy to have this Yachad program in our life. What made it easier for us, and for Zev, was the fact that he is already comfortable with his peers and many of the staff at Yachad, since he has been attending the after-school Mendel Balk Yachad Center (MBYC) program since its inception five years ago.

For years, Zev would come home from school at 3 p.m. and be home for an hour to rest up and relax and then my wife would take him to the MBYC for their program from 4-7 p.m. on weeknights. Since September, Zev has been at Yachad all day, from 9:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. which is a long day for him, for sure. However, the transition has gone incredibly smoothly for all involved.

We are so thankful to Yachad also that Zev is still able to work once a week at Grand & Essex for an hour or two, which he has been doing for years. We love hearing from friends and community members that they see him there and we know to always check his pockets for cash or change since some like to give Zev tips. To all of you who have seen Zev at Grand & Essex and said hello or given him a tip or both, please know that we deeply appreciate it.

Many thanks to Yachad for making this big transition from a school schedule to a day program so smooth and positive. And we are, once again, immensely grateful to Yachad for its impact on our family’s life.

I have written about Yachad before in this space and some readers will remember that my wife and I were honored a few years ago by Yachad NJ. I am happy to be helping them again and I know Zev would agree with me as well. The bottom line is that we continue to be grateful and satisfied parents and our son Zev is a happy and even more connected and enthusiastic Yachad member today than he was a few years ago.

With all of the above in mind, I invite you to join me at the upcoming Yachad NJ Annual Gala set for next Motzei Shabbat, Jan. 6. This year’s event is honoring the Adler family of Teaneck (Yachad Family Award), Rena Soclof (Woman’s Leadership Award) and Rabbi Andrew & Racheli Israeli (Young Leadership/Alumni Award), and is celebrating the launch of the George Weinberger Music Studio and Music Appreciation Program.

For online reservations or to donate please visit https://www.yachad.org/newjersey/gala/. I hope to see you there!

By Moshe Kinderlehrer/
Co-Publisher, The Jewish Link

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