Chani Herrmann, Director of NJ Yachad, to Also Be Director of Camp Mesorah Yachad

08 Jan 2014

Chani Herrmann

When Chani Herrmann was eight years old, she began a 10-year run at Camp Hillel in Swan Lake New York, seven years as a camper and three on staff. Now, years later, having established herself as a wife, mother of four and a well-respected professional with Yachad, the Orthodox Union’s agency for those with disabilities, Chani returns to her roots to become program director for Yachad at Camp Mesorah in upstate Guilford, NY.

Camp Mesorah is one of the many camps – both sleepaway and day camps — in which Yachad members are mainstreamed into the camp program, either as campers or staff members. They are assisted by shadows for the campers and job coaches for the vocational staff. Chani will oversee all aspects of their program from working with the campers, staff members, shadows and coaches, to coordinating with the many parts of the camp. At present Chani, who has earned the social work degree of LMSW, is Director of New Jersey Yachad. She is performing her responsibilities for both positions simultaneously, and will move to the camp with her family (with her husband coming on weekends) during the summer.

“I’ve always been excited about Yachad summer programs, and many New Jersey kids go there,” Mrs. Herrmann says.

“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.

Campers will range from 8-16 and vocational staff from 21-35. Those who will work with them are hired from 12th grade graduates and up. The camp season begins June 26 with staff orientation, with the first session opening on June 30 followed by the second session on July 28. Camp ends on August 18. This will be Yachad’s fourth summer at Camp Mesorah, with enrollment increasing every year.

Chani responded to a request from Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman, International Director of Yachad, to take on the summer position. As Dr. Lichtman explained,” With over 20 summer programs, as the largest provider of Inclusive and special needs summer programs, it is vital that we have the best professionals leading these programs. Given our continuous and sky-rocketing growth we need to employ our best staff to do ‘double duty.’ As a dynamic and highly competent professional Chani fits the bill, and given the importance of our expanding program at Mesorah, there are few people better suited to well-manage the many aspects of the complex program at the camp.”

Dr. Joe Goldfarb, Yachad Director of Summer Programs, hailed the Yachad/Camp Mesorah partnership. “Camp Mesorah has been and continues to be a great partner with Yachad. They are dedicated to the value of including individuals with disabilities in all parts of the camp. We look forward to continuing our growth at Mesorah with Chani Herrmann at the helm.”

Rabbi Ari Katz, Director of Camp Mesorah, looks forward to another summer with a Yachad delegation at camp. “Yachad has always played an integral role in the Camp Mesorah family and experience,” he said. “Yachad was the first to establish an integrated program and year after year, Mesorah campers and staff request Yachad campers to join them in their bunks. Our greatest joy is to see the lifetime friendships established each summer and the s’machot (celebrations) that are shared within and out of our camp.”

Chani Herrmann will play a direct role in encouraging those friendships and celebrations.

I’ll be overseeing everything related to Yachad and Mesorah, both the adult vocational program and the shadow program,” Chani says. The shadows are hired on the basis of one per child, and both sleep in a mainstream bunk, with one Yachad member and shadow per bunk. The children take part in the regular camp program, although as Mrs. Herrmann explains, extra enrichment can be provided as well to help the child adjust and develop. “I will be actively involved with every child and staff member, speaking with the parents, interacting with all the Camp Mesorah staff, addressing challenges, planning, sensitizing them, making sure that everything is as inclusive as possible.”

A typical Yachad day will be “just like for any other camper — sports, learning, arts & crafts, night activities, but with extra support. It is very individualized. If a child needs extra time away from the bunk, we can accommodate that,” she explains. Put another way, as Dr. Lichtman says, “Chani and her team together with Mesorah will provide a one of a kind camping experience that provides fun and friendship for everyone!”

There are still a few openings for this summer. For information or to register, go to {encode=”” title=””} or call 212-613-8369.

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