Justice Richard Bernstein has great affection for Yachad. Blind from birth, Justice Bernstein, who was elected to the Michigan Supreme Court in November 2014 – the first blind justice to sit on this court – has participated in a variety of events, including running in the Miami Marathon and Half Marathon (formerly the ING Miami Marathon and Half Marathon) as part of the Yachad delegation. So when Liz Offen, director of New England Yachad, based in Boston, needed a shabbaton guest speaker for the weekend of March 6-8, Parshat Ki Tisa, the Justice volunteered to take on the role.
“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.
Justice Bernstein had been in Boston for five days for events at ReelAbilities Boston Film Festival, Harvard Law School and Gann Academy. “Despite having just been in the area for some days and then returned to Michigan, when the Justice learned about the upcoming event he immediately agreed to adjust his schedule and return to the area to speak on Yachad’s behalf,” Ms. Offen said. “He made plans to come back to Boston to headline the shabbaton at the Maimonides Kehillah, in a program supported by the Ruderman Family Foundation.”
The shabbaton features a weekend that brings together children with disabilities, high school peer participants and members of the local synagogue. “The Yachad Shabbaton is extra special because Justice Bernstein will be with us. We are so honored that he has agreed to address the community on the important issue of Inclusion,” said Sharon Shapiro of the Ruderman Family Foundation.
Ms. Offen explained, “Justice Bernstein has overcome blindness to rise to the heights of the legal profession as well as being an activist for those with disabilities, including Yachad. Besides running in the marathon, he has spoken at many Yachad events in schools and synagogues. His willingness to fly back and forth from Michigan to Boston twice in succession in the middle of a terrible winter demonstrates what a wonderful man he is. Justice Bernstein is a shining light to all who have the good fortune to be in his presence. It should be a wonderful shabbaton and a great event for Yachad.”