May 23, 2024
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May 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Yachad Helps Employees Shine

Teaneck–Avi Tsadok, 31, works for the Jewish Link of New Jersey (JLNJ) every Tuesday, identifying potential metropolitan area advertisers for our newspaper’s sales team. His work is important to the growth of our company, and his colleagues are proud to welcome him as the Jewish Link’s first Yachad intern.

Yachad is an agency of the Orthodox Union–the National Jewish Council for Disabilities–a global organization dedicated to addressing the needs of all Jewish individuals with disabilities and ensuring their inclusion in every aspect of Jewish life. NJ Yachad is a division of that organization. Chani Herrmann, director of NJ Yachad, told JLNJ that the organization is partially funded through the state’s DDD (Division for Developmental Disabilities), depending on how many qualified participants are being served.

The program’s inclusive design ensures that persons with diverse abilities can find their rightful place within the Jewish community, and advocates to the Jewish world for greater understanding, acceptance, outreach, to promote positive attitudes toward the disabled.

As part of NJ Yachad’s “Vocational Program,” most participants work at different jobs four days a week. Participants are all over the age of 21. Every morning and afternoon, the participants get together to socialize and have group discussion before going to their jobs with their coaches. The morning and afternoon groups are led by a social worker, and they talk about social skills in the workplace, problem solving, interview preparation, and resume writing. The afternoons also include group sessions, but with some fun additions. Every Monday afternoon, for example, Matt Okin, of Black Box Studios in Teaneck, runs an improv workshop. “We ask Matt to present different scenes that we would like to work on, and it’s presented in a fun way,” said Herrmann. “It’s a creative way to play out social situations,” she added.

Participants also have lunch together every Wednesday, sometimes at a restaurant and sometimes they make their own lunches at the Yachad office on Queen Anne Road, to learn about healthy food preparation like salad-making. When they go to a restaurant, the participants think about budgets. “They have to decide what they should order based on how much they have to spend,” Herrmann explained.

Tsadok, who works five days a week, has a different coach each day, as do all the participants. And he’s certainly a busy guy: On Mondays he works for the Kosher Experience, helping administer the lunch program at the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey; on Tuesdays, after his JLNJ time, he spends the afternoon working for Liba’s Challah, a small challah company owned by Teaneck resident Lisa Mintz. On Wednesday and Friday, Tsadok works at his father’s fine tableware business, China Royale, in Englewood. On Thursdays, he works in the library at Yeshiva University in Manhattan. As though that schedule isn’t exhausting enough, Tsadok is also an active member of Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood, and often favors attending the Netz minyan on Shabbos, which starts before daylight begins.

Yachad’s vocational program sends participants to the Teaneck General Store, Garden State Jewelers, Lillian Lee Salon, Eli’s Auto, Bayit Interiors, Privet, Shalom Yeladim, Gan Rina, The Cheer Program, Bergen County Equestrian Center, Carlyz Craze, Yeshivat Noam, and Ben Porat Yosef. NJ Yachad is always looking for more employers to volunteer to help its participants get job experience.

“The goal is to make our young adults as independent as possible, and make them feel good about what they’re doing,” said Herrmann. “Working increases their self-esteem, and it’s important for everyone to find something they like, that they are good at. The long-term goal is for them to find a place that will be permanent,” she said.

The vocational program follows the school year, because their vocational training in the summer usually involves a camping experience; those who go to camp are accompanied by a Yachad coach to help them maneuver. “During the summertime, they all attend various Yachad summer programs, which have a vocational program too,” said Eve Yudelson, director of NJ Yachad’s Vocational Program. “Some of the camps they attend are Camp Mesorah, Camp Lavi, Camp Morasha, and Camp Moshava Ba’ir. We have participants from different areas of NJ, including Teaneck, Fort Lee, Closter, Passaic, Elizabeth, and Highland Park,” she said.

Herrmann said Tsadok has worked for a number of summers at the waterfront at Camp Mesorah, and has been given increased responsibility each summer he’s been there. This summer, Tsadok also enjoyed a new and different role: helping in the canteen.

“He was so loved at the canteen. He did an amazing job,” said Herrmann.

Tsadok says he knows exactly why he was so popular. “I gave junk food to the kids.”

By Elizabeth Kratz

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