OU to Honor Yachad’s 25th Anniversary at Annual Dinner, December 6

10 Nov 2009


With Chanukah just five days away, inaugurating a season of celebration and gift giving, the Orthodox Union will pay tribute to Yachad/NJCD (National Jewish Council for Disabilities) on the occasion of the fabled agency’s 25th anniversary. Yachad will be honored as the OU presents its 111th Annual Dinner & Awards Presentation, Sunday evening, December 6 in New York. “There is no finer Chanukah gift for Yachad and its families than being honored at the OU Dinner,” declared Aaron C. Kinderlehrer, Chair of the Commission on Yachad/NJCD.

His Excellency, Ambassador of Israel to the United States, Michael B. Oren, will be keynote speaker at the dinner.

Yachad provides inclusive social, educational and recreational programs for youth and young adults with disabilities in communities throughout North America. It advocates for people with disabilities and is the premier national resource center for Jewish families whose children have special needs. Yachad now encompasses almost 50 chapters across North America.

“Yachad’s 25th anniversary is indeed an occasion for celebration,” declared OU President Stephen J. Savitsky. “Its programs of inclusion to mainstream Jews with disabilities into the larger Jewish community give our participants the opportunity to build richer, fuller lives of joy and opportunity. And just as we have given them a rightful place in Jewish life, so have they immeasurably enriched us both individually and collectively.”

“Just 25 years ago, men and women in the Jewish community with disabilities were largely unknown, unseen, and unwelcome,” explained Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman, Director of Yachad/NJCD. “Yachad has been so successful in changing this, in facilitating the inclusion of children and adults with disabilities into the community, that we almost take it for granted.”

“As we celebrate these wonderful 25 years of accomplishment, we dare not forget how much more remains to be done in the next 25 years,” Dr. Lichtman said. “Jobs are the ultimate inclusion for men and women with disabilities, and much more inclusion within our shuls, schools and other communal entities is needed. Given the abilities of our Yachad members, our amazing staff and a community that wants to do ‘right’ by all of its people, I know that we will succeed in building an even more inclusive community in the years ahead.”

As part of that effort, Yachad and the OU will be organizing NAIM, North American Inclusion Month, which dedicates the whole month of February 2010 to the inclusion of individuals with disabilities into the Jewish community. NAIM will provide opportunities for Jewish communities all over the country to participate and to convey the important message of inclusion through inclusive Shabbatonim, renowned scholar-in-residence programs, educational workshops, special events and much more.

The OU Dinner will highlight Dr. Lichtman and Chana Zweiter, the current and founding professional leaders of Yachad. It will also feature individuals who were instrumental in Yachad’s growth and development, including Julius Berman, who was OU President when Yachad came into existence and was the program’s first Chairman. Several Yachad “members,” as they are known, as well as parents, staff members, lay leaders and supporters will also take part.

“This will be an emotional evening, because by definition what Yachad does is deeply affecting,” Dr. Lichtman said. “We won’t be lighting Chanukah candles just yet, but the warmth of the proceedings will be reminiscent of the wonderful warmth generated by a Chanukah menorah with a full complement of candles.”

For reservations and Journal information, visit www.ou.org/awardsdinner, call 212-613-8350, or contact Elaine Grossman at grossmane@ou.org.