Robert Grad, a native of Livingston and graduate of Yeshiva University, has been selected to serve as one of three Fellows in Yachad’s new Jewish Communal Leadership Fellowship (YJCLF) for the 2014-2015 programmatic year.
There were 38 applicants coming from all over North America. The other Fellows include Stephanie Weprin from Holliswood, New York, graduate of Queens College;and Naomi Gofine from Toronto, graduate of Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women.
The program will enable the Fellows to learn, grow and contribute to Yachad and its role as a dynamic human rights organization promoting disability Inclusion. The fellowship will be supervised by Eli Hagler, Associate Director of Yachad, and Deborah Berman, LCSW, Director of Social Work at Yachad.
Yachad, the flagship program of the Orthodox Union’s National Jewish Council for Disabilities (NJCD), provides unique social, educational and recreational programs for individuals with learning, developmental and physical disabilities with the goal of their inclusion in the total life of the Jewish community.
The Fellows will function as full members of Yachad’s staff, working out of its national headquarters in Lower Manhattan and will be assigned a primary mentor — a staff member under whose tutelage and guidance they will directly carry out their diverse range of duties within the agency. Additional mentors will provide integrated training and experiential opportunities in other areas as needed. Together, the mentoring team will offer opportunities for the Fellows to acquire proficiency in disability culture and Jewish organizational leadership. Each Fellow, with supervisory support, will be responsible to begin or continue a special project, or to research a topic of interest.
Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman, International Director of Yachad, explained, “Yachad has been at the forefront of educating and facilitating today’s youth to become tomorrow’s leaders, ensuring that all individuals are included in the Jewish community. There is no question that Yachad has come a long way in educating the community about the abilities of our members, but there is still a long way to go. We hope that the Yachad Fellows will quickly become an integral part of the Yachad team going into the 2014-2015 programmatic year. We are hopeful that the three Fellows will go on to successful careers and will always remember their time at Yachad as an important step in their professional advancement and development.”
Robert Grad expressed his gratitude for being chosen. “I believe that pioneering the Yachad Fellowship will provide a tremendous opportunity enabling me to develop the ability to advocate for those in need and to develop as a leader in the Jewish nation,” he declared.
Mr. Grad, who received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Yeshiva University, plans on attending medical school after the Fellowship. “Working at Yachad will prepare me for my future career in medicine and enable me to always look out for those in need. I believe it will provide me the tools to create change when change is necessary in a career where I will be caring for sick, scared, and needy individuals. I plan on always fighting to help those in need and working for Yachad will facilitate that ideal.”
He offered his philosophy on inclusion. “I have a vision in which individuals with special needs aren’t labeled and categorized as ‘disabled,’” he stated. “I believe that it diminishes their self-worth, creates emotional stress and a separation from society. I believe working as a YJCLF Fellow will allow me to make this vision a reality. It will give me the opportunity to continue to develop as a leader for social change and will allow me to continue living my dream of improving the lives of those with various challenges.”
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