A Place Where Everyone Belongs

Yachad, an international organization, is dedicated to enriching the lives of Jewish individuals with disabilities and their families by enhancing their communal participation and connection to Judaism through social and educational programs and services.
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Photo on left: IVDU Girls' School students in the school's beit midrash.
550+
participants in summer camps and programs
2,000+
holiday-themed boxes sent to Yachad participants including divrei Torah and holiday-related items and activities
4,000+
programs offered through Yachad on Demand virtual platform


BOYS’ BEST FRIEND: YACHAD BACHUTZ

Yachad Bachutz—a summer program set on a farm in Upstate New York—is a perfect haven for teenage boys. Throughout the summer, boys helped care for goats, cows, chickens— even Golden Retrievers (which the farm breeds); they also led visitors on guided tours. The program helped teach campers about responsibility and the value of hard work as they grew socially and emotionally and developed confidence.

Teenage boys help care for animals at a farm on the Yachad Bachutz summer program.


IVDU: INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION, HELPING CHILDREN REACH THEIR POTENTIAL

Located in Brooklyn and Long Island, IVDU is one of the largest special education Jewish programs in the country. IVDU offers students with disabilities (ages 5 to 21) a comprehensive and nurturing educational environment, providing the core Judaic and General Studies academics, social, and life skills needed to achieve their highest potential and develop into productive citizens in their communities.

With four divisions and a total of 130 kids and 150 staff members, IVDU is open year-round. IVDU students in the upper school are placed on an individualized track where they will either get a Regents diploma, intensive career training, or both. Students are not graded and can graduate anytime up to the age of 21. In 2021, 4 boys and 11 girls graduated; some are off to yeshiva and seminary, some on the way to college, and some are working in the jobs that they chose through IVDU’s career training program.

The staff at IVDU are not just here to educate students. They continually look for ways to help them develop skills and confidence needed to be successful in life. For example, to some students, learning to ride a bicycle is a dream beyond their reach. IVDU staff decided to help students in both elementary and upper school accomplish this dream. In the upper school division, IVDU staff also taught students graphic design and how to run an Amazon business.

IVDU Boys' School students at the bima
Runners at the starting line of the first Yachad/IVDU triathlon in New Jersey’s American Dream mall. Over 200 athletes competed in the event

A TRIATHLON TO REMEMBER

Over 200 athletes from across the New York tristate area participated in the first Yachad/IVDU triathlon in New Jersey’s American Dream mall. The professionally designed triathlon course included a distance run through the mall that was mapped out by the official course measurer for the New York City Marathon. The bike racers rode on stationary bikes and the swim event took place in the mall’s DreamWorks Water Park. The triathlon gave IVDU students a memorable and joyful experience of camaraderie while raising awareness for IVDU schools as well as funds.

JEWISH UNION FOUNDATION (JUF): CREATING INDEPENDENCE

Dedicated to enhancing the lives of individuals with disabilities, JUF offers an array of services that help individuals achieve greater independence, make immense personal strides, and become better able to participate in the full spectrum of life. Services include Day Habilitation, Supplemental Day Hab, Vocational Services, Supported Employment, Community Habilitation, and Respite.

COMMUNITY HABILITATION

Centers in Long Island, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island provide a staff member for each individual.

DAY HABILITATION

Operating in Brooklyn and Long Island, Day Hab programs emphasize social skills development, life skills training, and vocational preparation. Staff members work with participants at their level, helping them to become more independent.

FAMILY RESPITE

Families with a child with disabilities have needs few of us can imagine. Respite allows parents to care for their other children and themselves.

VOCATIONAL SERVICES

Vocational staff and job developers compose a comprehensive vocational plan to help each person achieve their goal of employment.

Jewish Union Foundation is a provider agency of the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD).
A group of IVDU boys at the vocational component of the school.


YACHAD’S 1ST SEFER TORAH

History was made on October 3rd as Yachad celebrated its first Hachnasas Sefer Torah, which is dedicated in loving memory of Debbie Cohen Z’L, the motherin-law of Ken Saibel (Associate Director, Yachad International), who spent her life as a teacher within the special needs community.

To the left of the sofer: Mr. Stan Cohen, who donated the Torah for his late wife, Debbie Cohen; behind Stan on left: Ken Saibel, associate director of Yachad; Mindy, his wife and Stan and Debbie’s daughter; to their right: Lisa and Irv Schwarzbaum, Stan and Debbie’s daughter and son-in-law.
Families at a West Coast shabbaton in Los Angeles. This and other respite programs are an opportunity for families to take time off the constant care of their children with disabilities.

JAKE ROSENTHAL: A YACHAD STORY

Jake Rosenthal takes the stage with Mordechai Shapiro at the Yachad Gala Event.

Twenty-five-year-old Jake Rosenthal is funny, irreverent, curious about the world, intensely loyal, and a lover of music and bowling. He’s an older brother to Maggie and Sophia. And he has autism. At Yachad, Jake is appreciated for who he is, not for what he has. "They see through the disability to the essence of my son as a human being," says Karen Rosenthal, Jake’s mother. "They treat him with incredible respect."

Through Yachad, Jake—who received his nourishment through a feeding tube until age 10, only began walking at 3, and talking at 5—has developed a sense of selfesteem, an inner voice, and an ability to accept life on life’s terms. "That’s the closest thing to a miracle that can happen," Karen says.

Something else Yachad has given Jake: a chance to identify and connect with other Jews. Before Yachad, Jake lived in and participated in non-Jewish programs, and Karen and her husband, Shawn, didn’t know if Jake would ever care about Parsha, or davening, or even know what these things meant.

He now fully embraces his Jewishness—he loves shul, Yachad Shabbatonim, and the Jewish holidays.

Indeed, Yachad’s Jewish approach is what really sets the program apart. "You sense that the staff appreciates the value, the holiness of Jake’s neshama," Karen says. "They don’t act like they’re doing us a favor. They behave as if it’s their life’s mission to help individuals like Jake reach their potential. As a parent, nothing could be more meaningful."

The many Yachad programs Jake participates in (from Day Hab to summer programs, weekly outings like Pizza and Parsha and bowling, and the many Zoom groups on Yachad.org during COVID) have also given Jake something most of us take for granted—purpose and community. Not only does Jake have friends in Yachad, but he’s also recognized and appreciated in his local community of Woodmere, NY. "People see him not as disabled, but as the funny guy, full of personality, that he is," Karen says. "He’s not invisible, he’s not separate. He belongs."

KOREN SIDDUR:
A SPECIAL BOOK FOR SPECIAL NEEDS

After years of effort, OU Press and Koren Publishers issued a unique book: The Koren Yachad Siddur, one of the first siddurs authored to meet the spiritual needs of those with developmental challenges. With translation and commentary by Rabbi Dr. Benjy Leibowitz and Michael Adler, the siddur makes tefillah accessible to so many Jews that up to this point had difficulties connecting with their Creator through traditional methods. The siddur was delivered to each Yachad member, and the Yachad Siddur Initiative featured a weekly Zoom shiur that introduced participants to a part of the tefillah. In addition, and in partnership with OU-JLIC and NCSY, Yachad participants were paired with chavrutot (study partners) for virtual tefillah learning using the Sruly App.

OU Women’s Initiative