NEW YORK – This summer, 498 participants took part in Yachad programs across the United States, Canada and Israel. Yachad, a division of the Orthodox Union, is a leading organization for individuals with disabilities in the Jewish community and is one of the only organizations to offer summer programs for Orthodox individuals with disabilities ages 8 to 65 years old.
This summer, the group ran its Yachad Integration Program (YIP) for campers in camps Lavi, Morasha and Nesher. The YIP program allows campers to enjoy a separate bunk while joining mainstream campers for many daily programs. Highlights of the program include a higher staff ratio, tailored activities, and a structured environment. YIP’s sister program, Yachad’s Camper Integration Program fully immerses campers into the bunkhouses and programing of their mainstream compatriots. The program, which was run this year at Camp Mesorah, Moshava Alevy, Moshava Indian Orchard (IO), and Moshava Wild Rose, is staffed with a one-to-one ratio for campers to trained counselors who utilizing Yachad’s fade-in, fade-out model, create more opportunities for inclusion.
Over 450 staff members accompanied the participants in the programs.
Last summer, Yachad was forced to put its overnight and travel programs on hold to keep its members safe. The organization joined in the Orthodox Union’s Project Community 2020 to offer daytime programming to participants in the New York and New Jersey regions. This year, Yachad was able to offer a full suite of programs in day camps and overnight camps. Yad B’Yad, Yachad’s premier inclusion travel program, was also able to return to Israel.
“This was an amazing summer for our Yachad participants and the staff who accompanied them,” said Orthodox Union President Moishe Bane. “The programs our team offered are so important, from a spiritual, learning and fun perspective. We were so happy that despite the pandemic, we were able to offer a full portfolio of programs to fit the needs of so many different participants.”
“Our summer programs are so vital in helping to create inclusion between mainstream members of our community and those with disabilities,” said Yachad International Director Avromie Adler. “During the school year, individuals with disabilities attend schools or classes that are apart from their mainstream peers. The summer is a unique opportunity where everyone can come together to enjoy activities, ruach, and sports.”
For older Yachad members the organization offered vocational trainings where they were able to join mainstream camps as specialty staff members, working in tailored roles in sports programs, dining halls, art rooms, and other tasks. They are accompanied by job coaches who provide personalized supervision helping each participant perform their job independently. Such programs were heled at camps Amichai, Stone, Lavi, Mesorah, Morasha, Moshava Alevy, Moshava Indian Orchard (IO), and Moshava Wild Rose. Similar programs were also run out of the Moshava Ba’Ir day camps in New Jersey and Toronto.
Yachad also held single-gendered camps in the Catskills for both boys (Camp Chaverim) and girls (Camp Kesher), and a shorter two-week vacation retreat for adults. New for 2021, the organization created Yachad BaChutz, a unique farm-based program for teenage male Yachad members, who seek a more fulfilling task-focused day helping to take care of animals.
“We’re tremendously grateful to our staff and our participants for helping to make this summer a Yachad Summer success for all of our members,” said Yachad Summer Director Joe Goldfarb, PhD. “As this summer comes to a close, we look towards next summer and have some great programs in the planning stage.”
Founded in 1898, the Orthodox Union, (OU), is the largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization in the United States. The OU has hundreds of synagogues in its network and is at the forefront of the American Orthodox community’s government advocacy work at the federal and state levels, outreach to Jewish teens and young professionals through NCSY, OU-JLIC, Birthright Israel/Israel Free Spirit, Yachad and OU Press, among many other divisions and programs.