Pearl Markovitz reports for the The Jewish Link of New Jersey:
Five months into their new headquarters at the Teaneck Jewish Center, Yachad is brimming with exciting new programs. According to Chani Herrmann, Director of New Jersey Yachad, “Our new and expanded facility has added even greater enthusiasm and excitement to our program for staff and participants. Our larger space as well as our being surrounded by the energy and momentum of the Heichal HaTorah high schoolers add greatly to our ambience and environment.”
Yachad’s highly successful vocational program continues apace. Annette of Fort Lee serves one day of her internship at the offices of The Jewish Link. On Tuesday afternoons, Annette spends three hours researching potential advertisers for the Link. By consulting other periodicals from around Bergen County and even outside communities, Annette supplies publisher Moshe Kinderlehrer with suggestions for establishments and individuals who would find it beneficial to advertise with the paper. This may include real estate offerings in Israel or hotlines for services, in addition to businesses and product offerings.
Mondays find Annette with her job coach at the Lillian Lee Hair Salon on Teaneck Road. There she works on Lee’s “Do Wonders” program which provides wigs for women cancer patients. The wigs are donated and then re-styled and updated by Lee’s staff. Annette has been trained to work on preparing the wigs for distribution. Knowing that her work will bring joy to the recipients makes Annette feel very fulfilled. Thursdays take Annette to SAR High School in Riverdale. There she assists with office work including filing, sorting inventory and some data entry.
Participant Eli Gorelik interns at the lunch program of Yeshivat Noam provided by Kosher Experience. Kenny Yager of Five Star Caterers, who is being honored with his wife Meredith at this year’s Yachad National Dinner, employs Yachad participants in his lunch programs at Frisch and other schools throughout Bergen County. Other participants can be found at the Teaneck General Store, Shalom Yeladim Preschool and at the Jewish Home at Rockleigh where they work in transport, therapy centers and even the local gift shop. At Kushner Yeshiva in Livingston, participants can be found in the office, classrooms, kitchen and high school art room. Dorit Dickter assists in the classroom and in the library at Yeshivat Ben Porat Yosef.
Every Thursday finds male Yachad participants and staff at Yeshiva University where they have an opportunity to learn in the Beit Midrash, have lunch and daven Mincha with the YU students, and then devote time to re-shelving the volumes in the study hall.
In addition to their internship opportunities, the Yachad vocational program participants partake of morning and afternoon sessions which guide them in communication skills, relationship formations, public speaking, coping skills and time management. Monday afternoons is a highlight of the week when Matt Okin of the Black Box Theater provides improvisation training in which participants practice using body language and acting techniques to deal with real-life situations which require thinking in the moment. Cooking meals under the supervision of trained nutritionist Gila Guzman of Main Asset Health and creating expressive artwork are also weekly components of the vocational program.
“Shake It Up” evenings for members and staff meet once a month for fun activities. Some have included joint dinners, visits to Dave and Busters arcade, and tours of Madame Tussaud’s wax museum in Manhattan. Shabbatonim are held twice monthly in communities including Englewood, Teaneck, Bergenfield, Fair Lawn, Livingston, West Orange, Springfield, Elizabeth and more. Many students participate in the inclusive programs that Yachad offers on weekends and after school including those from Yeshivat Noam, Yavneh Academy, RYNJ, Kushner Yeshiva, Maayanot, TABC, Frisch and Moriah. During the year, Yachad also provides free trips to Israel through Birthright as well as 20 different inclusive summer programs.
Recently, an innovative professional development conference was held which brought together participants from the New York and New Jersey regions of Yachad. Topics explored throughout the day included employer/employee relationships, appropriate social behavior and teamwork, stress and support in the workplace, proper dress and communication. Participants had opportunities to interact and socialize during lunch and informal question and answer sessions.
Yachad has even ventured into the profit world through their popular Yachad Gifts business which provides tasty and tastefully designed gift packages for all occasions including hostess gifts, get-well gifts, Purim mishloach manot, baby and all-occasion gifts. Through their storefront in Flatbush as well as online through yachadgifts.com, customers can select from a variety of creative candy assortments which will be shipped in a timely manner. The creation of these gift baskets is often inspired and crafted by Yachad participants.
According to Herrmann, “After the school bus stops coming, our Yachad participants aged 21 and older confront uncertain times without structure and without funding. It is through the efficient and effective leadership of Eve Yudelson, Director of Adult Services, and Leora Verbit, Coordinator of Vocational Programs, that our participants are guided to internships that allow them to become meaningfully entrenched in the community, train in and utilize new skills, and create social circles and opportunities for exciting interactions and experiences.”
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.