YACHAD’S DR. JEFFREY LICHTMAN PARTICIPATES IN PANEL “WHAT IS THE JEWISH COMMUNITY’S OBLIGATION TO SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN?”
Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman, National Director of the National Jewish Council for Disabilities, an agency of the Orthodox Union, participated in a well-attended panel discussion, “What is the Jewish Community’s Obligation to Special Needs Children,” which was held recently at Congregation Shearith Israel in Manhattan. NJCD includes Yachad, a program for the learning and developmentally disabled, and Our Way, a program for the deaf and hard of hearing.
In his presentation, Dr. Lichtman highlighted the improvements for individuals with disabilities in the community over the past 25 years and the considerable distance the community still has to travel to fully include individuals with special needs in Jewish religious and communal life. NJCD is out in front in this effort; Yachad’s NAIM program (National Inclusion Month), held in February, forcefully delivered this message throughout North America through a variety of programs and special events.
Other panelists included the moderator, Dr. Jed Luchow, Director of Special Needs of the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York; Jonathan Cooper, Director of Kulanu Community Programs in Long Island; Rabbi Dov Linzer, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, who discussed the Torah perspective on the disabled; his wife, Devorah Zlochower, whose two special needs children are marginalized by the community; and Richard Bernstein, Chairman, Wayne State University Board of Governors, Professor, University of Michigan, and disability rights attorney, who wondered how a community so dedicated to its ritual observance could ignore the needs of the disabled.
Dr. Lichtman challenged everyone in the Orthodox community to rise to the occasion and to bring change to the situation of those with disabilities. He didn’t have to say so, but Yachad will be leading the way.