CHICAGO – The Orthodox Union’s (OU) Yachad, the leading group for individuals with disabilities in the Orthodox community, has received a record $1 million grant to create the “Ralla Klepak Performing Arts Inclusion Initiative.” A program of Yachad Chicago, it will provide a broad range of experiential and social opportunities for individuals with disabilities through the performing arts. It will be led by experienced professionals, community volunteers and peer participants.
“The Ralla Klepak Performing Arts Inclusion Initiative” will create a unique space for individuals with special needs and provide both formal and informal education focusing on the performing arts. Those with disabilities will be able to participate in a high-quality performance space, setting the stage for acceptance, understanding and friendship. Yachad members with a range of emotional disabilities, autism and developmental delays, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, and other chromosomal disorders will perform and work alongside their typically developing peers.
Ralla Klepak was a legendary Chicago – based attorney whose career accomplishments spanned many areas of the law. For decades, she took on individual civil and criminal cases for people whom she believed were being ill-treated by the legal system, often stating that one of her chief concerns was to try and make sure the “system worked for everyone or that everyone at least had the opportunity to have the best representation” she could mount.
“It is our community’s responsibility to create opportunities for those with disabilities to have a voice and contribute in their own way. The performing arts allows them to do just that,” said Orthodox Union President Moishe Bane. “We’re grateful that through Ralla Klepak’s generosity, they will have this opportunity.”
“The Ralla Klepak Performing Arts Inclusion Initiative will facilitate the inclusion of individuals with all different kinds of abilities and the diverse spectrum of age, socio-economic and religious backgrounds, and facilitate their participation in performing arts programs.” added Orthodox Union Executive Vice President Allen Fagin. “All of this from one exceptional woman who understood how the performing arts can allow these participants to shine.”
“Throughout theater history, the stage has been a place for people to communicate in different ways,” said Yachad International Director Avrohom Adler. “Performing arts programs encourage people with disabilities to find creative fulfillment while experiencing profound personal growth.”
Yachad thanks the Ralla Klepak Trust for the Performing Arts for facilitating and bringing this program into fruition.
“At Yachad, we’re continually looking for creative ways to include individuals from across the community in our programming, and our grant from the Ralla Klepak Performing Arts Trust allows us to do just that,” said Yachad Chicago’s Director of Development, Elliot Cohen. “It is our hope that this pilot program can be brought to other Yachad chapters across the country.”
To learn more about Yachad Chicago, visit: www.yachad.org/chicago.
Founded in 1898, the Orthodox Union, (OU), serves as the voice of American Orthodox Jewry, with over 400 congregations in its synagogue network. As the umbrella organization for American Orthodox Jewry, the OU is at the forefront of advocacy work on both state and federal levels, outreach to Jewish teens and young professionals through NCSY, Israel Free Spirit Birthright, Yachad and OU Press, among many other divisions and programs.