A Place Where Everyone Belongs

Yachad, an international organization, is dedicated to enhancing the life opportunities of Jewish individuals with disabilities

Inclusive,social, recreational, educational, and vocational programming helps break down real and perceived barriers within communities. Programs also empower participants to meaningfully and fully engage in Jewish life, while fostering unity among Am Yisrael by celebrating the uniqueness of every Jew

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Photo on left: Students at IVDU Girls School campus in Brooklyn. IVDU offers a pre-vocational training program for young adults, with separate girls and boys divisions.
100%
OF IVDU STUDENTS WERE CONNECTED BY TECHNOLOGY TO CLASS DURING COVID-19
2,100
TEENS ENGAGED THROUGH INFORMAL EDUCATION PRE-COVID-19
300
PROJECT COMMUNITY 2020 IN-PERSON PARTICIPANTS INCLUDING TEENS AND COLLEGE-AGED YOUTH
1,500
HOUSEHOLDS ATTENDED THE VIRTUAL BATTLE OF THE SINGERS EVENT IN JUNE
$1,000,000
GIFT RECEIVED FROM THE RALLA KLEPAK FOUNDATION

Covid-19: Life Goes On

Yachad Saves Summer

Social distancing has been particularly challenging for those with disabilities, who heavily rely on in-person connections and look forward to their annual summer getaways in camp and Israel. With many summer camp programs closed, OU’s Project Community 2020 (PC20) came to the rescue with initiatives across the U.S., Canada, and Israel. From six-week camps to Backyard Buddies to personalized activity packages delivered to homes, hundreds of individuals were helped and isolation was eased. Each day, PC20 had new themes that included Torah learning, music and movement, "mad" science, team-building activities, crafts, sports, cooking, and night activities. Yachad brought together small groups of staff and participants in backyards, tents, shuls, and parks, giving individuals with disabilities the social interaction they craved, and families the respite they needed.

The Yachad Sruly App – A Virtual Buddy System

The coronavirus pandemic has isolated thousands, highlighting the urgency to provide the Yachad community with the ability to share common interests and to facilitate social connections. Specifically designed for individuals with developmental disabilities, the Yachad Sruly app is a safe and secure platform for developing meaningful personal relationships with pre-assigned, vetted “buddies.” The app also hosts interactive programming and has quickly become a thriving virtual space for people with disabilities. The brainchild of longtime Yachad supporter Michael Lebor, and powered by Moxtra, the application has connected hundreds of pairs of buddies and includes over 400 volunteers.

Yachad Project Community 2020 participants enjoyed traditional summer activities such as color war.

Keeping It Going: On Demand

At a time when personal interactions are few and far between, the digital platform “Yachad On Demand” offers a plethora of virtual programming for those with disabilities. These include support groups, Partnersin Torah, and events like cooking demonstrations, shiurim, pre- Shabbat shmoozes, and exercise classes.

IVDU Schools: The Pivot

With over 130 students and a small student teacher ratio, IVDU Schools, located in Borough Park, Flatbush, and Long Island, offer students with disabilities (ages 5 to 21) a nurturing educational environment. The beginning of the 2019–20 school year started out as usual, with students learning about topics like coding, and creating stop motion movies. By March, the school had moved to virtual classes and students continued their independent research projects, even creating presentations and presenting them to their Zoom audience, adapting well to the change in circumstances.

financials
Yachad offered in-person programs as part of Project Community 2020. Daily programming included recreational activities, Torah learning, and a summer of fun for members

Yachad: Our Child’s Guardian Angel

By Danny Cutler, father of Yachad member Tali Cutler

When Hashem blessed us with a beautiful baby girl in February 1991, the doctors told us she would never walk or talk, and that we should leave her in the hospital. Of course, we eagerly took home our daughter, Avital Vichna, better known as Tali, realizing that raising this very special and beautiful girl would be a challenge.

In raising a developmentally delayed child, we have learned that Hashem provides us with "Guardian Angels" to help us throughout life. In Tali's case, these Guardian Angels include Yachad.

In March, when the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a halt, the services and programs we had come to rely upon as our life lines for Tali and for ourselves were abruptly taken from us. We were terrified that Tali would be left with no structure in her life, which she desperately needs.

Yachad stepped in, as they have done so many times in the past, to provide Tali with structure, a chance to see friends, and an opportunity to continue her growth. Tali has benefited from Yachad's Zoom programs that run from morning until late in the night, and include cooking, arts and crafts, exercise, game nights, shmooze clubs, and concerts. Tali has also been blessed with three Yachad Virtual Buddies who spend half an hour each week talking to Tali and bonding with her. The entire Yachad staff worldwide became accessible to us,constantly asking us how they could be of further help. They are all part of Tali's Guardian Angels.

After 18 weeks in lockdown,we were very concerned about what this summer would be like for Tali. She critically needed in-person programming so she could interact with her peers face-to-face, or at least mask-to-mask.

The OU’s Project Community 2020, with its Yachad Summer Hubs, was the perfect answer. Tali started six weeks of in-person programming and her joy and excitement are clear for anyone to see, despite the fact that her smile is hidden behind her mask.

Yachad has always been there for Tali and for us, constantly enhancing her quality of life, and ours. That was clear before COVID-19, and is abundantly clear now.

tali

OU Women’s Initiative