The Mendel Balk Yachad Adult Community Center just opened its doors in Teaneck, NJ last year, and is already having a positive impact on area communities. This new facility for adults with disabilities has attracted many, including Sara Gdanski, a former student at the Frisch School in Paramus, NJ. Her enthusiasm for the Center spurred her parents, Ilana and Jeff Gdanski, to host an event, along with fellow residents Sharonne and Zvi Rudman, at their Englewood home to help introduce the Center to their community.
On the evening of January 6, the Gdanskis welcomed NJ Yachad staff and neighborhood residents for an uplifting and successful parlor meeting in support of the year-old Center.
Chani Hermann, Director of New Jersey Yachad, delivered words of inspiration about inclusion, the mission of the Mendel Balk Yachad Community Center. “What makes this Center so attractive is that along with superb programs it provides dinner for its members as well as transportation home, freeing up parents for other responsibilities. What’s more, the Center offers a warm and welcoming place for people to build relationships, develop a sense of community and independence and help them grow into meaningful adulthood,” said Ms. Hermann.
About 60 people attended the event, including Rabbi Zev and Chana Reichman of East Hill Synagogue and Rabbi Menachem Genack of Congregation Shomrei Emunah, both located in Englewood. Donations pledged at the event have been matched by the Balk family.
New Jersey Yachad offers a variety of inclusive programs for individuals with special needs as well as emotional support for all members of the family. One of Yachad’s most substantial undertakings in the past year has been the opening and operation of the Mendel Balk Yachad Adult Community Center. The first-of-its-kind Center is a social spot where Yachad members along with high school and college students can spend their evenings enjoying art, basketball, pottery, theater and activities geared toward Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education.
“The Yachad Center not only offers important services to kids with special needs, but also offers incredible opportunities for the entire community to stay involved,” said Ilana Gdanski, event host. “It truly becomes a part of your life.”
Sharonne Rudman volunteered to co-host the event after seeing the impact the Center has had on so many individuals in need. “I recently attended a Yachad Shabbaton at my shul – East Hill Synagogue – and noticed that a lot of the kids that hang out at the Center were there. Seeing those kids and teenagers interact and getting to know each other was so heartening,” Sharonne said. “I wanted to build on that experience by getting together with parents who have children eligible to volunteer at the Center and letting them know just how much it helps our kids,” she added. High school students and young adults can join members daily by volunteering for, or participating in, a variety of activities at the Center.
“Fundraisers like this one are vital. The costs of running the Center are high and continue to climb as Yachad meets the needs of more and more community members. This fundraiser helped the Center to keep its doors open while maintaining the highest quality programming with appropriate staff ratios,” added Ms. Hermann.
“This event was a special opportunity for the Englewood community to learn more about the Center and show their support. Community-building and inclusion starts with us. Having the first fundraiser for the Center in Englewood was moving and significant because the Center was named in memory of Mendel Balk (z”l), who lived in Englewood. His family continues to live there and are active members of the East Hill Synagogue,” said Ms. Gdanski.
The Mendel Balk Yachad Adult Community Center is located at Heichal HaTorah, 70 Sterling Place in Teaneck, NJ. It is open Monday through Thursday, 4-7 p.m. You can find more information here.
New Jersey Yachad continues to collect donations. Please contact Chani Herrmann at firstname.lastname@example.org for giving opportunities, or visit Yachad.org
For more information about getting involved at the Center, please contact Racheli Israeli at email@example.com.