July 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Yachad Gala Honoree: The Inspirational Avi Tsadok

When you meet Avi, you are immediately taken in by his warmth. When I walked up to Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey, Avi’s place of work, he waved me in and flashed me his big smile. Avi, 34, is a participant of New Jersey Yachad’s vocational program. The program places individuals with special needs at various work sites through the area and provides them transportation, on-site job coaches and extensive support to be successful in their jobs. Avi has been placed at RYNJ and is responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of the cafeteria in between lunch shifts. He provides a clean and pleasant environment for the students to enjoy their meals.

Avi described the type of work environment he enjoys at RYNJ: “Everyone is so friendly. I know a lot of the kids here at the school, sometimes they give me high fives. My boss, Chris, is funny, he makes me laugh with a funny Elmo doll that cracks me up. Omar and the other guys that work here are always nice to me, and it feels good to be here.” When you see Avi among his colleagues, it becomes clear that they have an excellent rapport with each other, and there is respect on both sides.

He also shared that since he himself is a neat person, he enjoys helping other people stay tidy as well. Avi walked me through his work space and detailed his responsibilities, like sweeping, cleaning up spills, making sure that the sinks are clean and overall making sure the room is in good shape. He works in shifts, his day weaving in and out of the varying grade lunch hours.

Avi’s job coach, Gavy Levy, was by his side, attentive during our interview, as he is during the times that Avi is working. He provides transportation, guidance and serves as an advocate for Avi, making sure that Avi is comfortable, safe and successful through all his work interactions. This service is provided by New Jersey Yachad’s vocational program and has a huge impact on the adults with special needs in our New Jersey communities. Not only are they finding the right jobs to fit the right person, but they also hold the hands of the individuals and their families in assuring that they will gain skills, have the opportunity to work for pay, and important socialization.

Interacting with people is paramount to Avi’s happiness. Besides for the friendly interactions in his workplace, he also thrives in the Mendel Balk Yachad Adult Community Center in Teaneck. The center, which opened up last year, provides four times a week dinner, activities and socialization from 4 to 7 p.m. The many times I have visited, Avi is always present—joking with his friends, enjoying the activities and meals. He adds his easygoing and engaging personality to the fun atmosphere of the center.

Avi has been a participant at Camp Mesorah for many years, and as Chani Herrmann, the director of New Jersey Yachad and director of Camp Mesorah’s Yachad division described, “Avi has always been a big part of camp life.” He also participates in the vocational program at camp, and has done jobs assisting lifeguards at the pools, working in the camp dining room and even working in the canteen. Chani added, “One of Avi’s greatest qualities is that people are drawn to him because he is so sweet and friendly. He makes connections easily with other people, and in camp, from youngest to oldest, he has many friends—from a high-five on the road to more significant relationships with staff members. He is a valued member of the Yachad community.”

Avi began his tenure with Yachad at just 8 years old. From spending Shabbatot at Junior Yachad (children’s division) shabbatonim, all the way through Rayim (adult division), Avi has grown up with Yachad. Avi’s family, the Tsadoks, have played a major role in the family shabbatonim, the annual weekends where entire families of individuals with special needs go on a retreat with other families and Yachad staff. Avi’s siblings have been able to connect with other siblings of individuals with special needs, and it has been a meaningful experience for the whole family.

Avi and his parents, Shlomo and Debbie Tsadok, are receiving the Yachad Family Award this year at the New Jersey Yachad Gala Melava Malka Reception on November 18, 2017, in Congregation Keter Torah in Teaneck. For their many years of involvement, connection and continued support, New Jersey Yachad is proud to be recognizing this family for their vital contributions over the past 25 years. Please join us in support of New Jersey Yachad at their gala this year, and contribute generously to continue the growth of vital programs and services for individuals and families with special needs.

By Shira Lankin Sheps

 Shira Lankin Sheps is a writer, photojournalist and creator of The Layers Project: In-Depth Insights Into the Lives of Jewish Women. She runs her photography business, Shira Sheps Photography, and spends her time interviewing Jewish women to explore the challenges and triumphs of their lives. She lives in Fair Lawn with her husband and two children.

 

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