Teaneck Father Runs For Yachad in Miami

14 Feb 2012

By Jackie Schlanger

Yachad | Jewish Disabilities Inclusion/The National Jewish Council for Disabilities (NJCD) is an agency of the Orthodox Union that provides unique social, educational and recreational programs for individuals with learning, developmental and physical disabilities.
Jackie Schlanger, 60, of Teaneck, father of Yachad member Tamar, ran with Team Yachad at the recent Miami ING Half-Marathon. He sent a personal reflection on the race to Yachad:

I joined Team Yachad as a way of acknowledging my gratitude and to give back to an extraordinary organization that we have benefitted from. My daughter, Tamar, has been a Yachad member for over 15 years. Throughout this period, she has attended Shabbatonim and other events. We have developed lasting relationships and friendships with parents, volunteers and staff members which we have called upon repeatedly for assistance, information, and services. For once, instead of getting, I was in a position to give — to give thanks to Yachad; to give recognition to the organization and its extraordinary staff and volunteers; and to raise awareness of the vital work and services it provides to the community.

Little did I anticipate that once again I would be receiving more than I gave. Spending the pre-race weekend with the rest of Team Yachad, supporters and some of the Yachad staff and board members, I was treated to an exhilarating and uplifting experience. The infectious enthusiasm and commitment that I saw in my fellow team members showed that “Kulanu B’Yachad”(everyone together) is more than a slogan. The encouragement everyone gave to their fellow runners and Yachad members who attended — many of whom were runners too — showed that the message was more than just a slogan, but a way of life.

During the race itself, this played itself out repeatedly. I saw numerous occasions — and I was a beneficiary of it — when fellow Yachad runners would exhort team members, run with them — even if it meant disrupting their own running routine — and give a moral boost. Their selflessness was not limited to fellow Yachad members but also was extended to runners from Chai Lifeline and other charities that were fielding teams. Yachad supporters lined the route and also lent moral support throughout, and not only to Yachad members. A true Kiddush Hashem.

Milepost 11 was where the water station was manned by Yachad members and supporters. Just the sight of them gave a lift and reminded me why we were running: not just for the accomplishment of a job well done but to show everyone that Yachad members can participate in life’s daily activities in all its forms. Runners, spectators and other volunteers could also see and experience firsthand the message of Inclusion that Yachad has been spreading for all these years.

The finish itself couldn’t come soon enough — after that I was tired, I was hurting and it was hot, but as I neared the line I reminded myself why I was doing this. It wasn’t for me or about me, but about others and that immediately put a completely different light on it and gave it a higher purpose. The steps quickened and the exhilaration returned. While there was pain, there was enormous satisfaction on a mission accomplished. However, it couldn’t have been done without the help and support of others: runners, coaches, family members, friends, and unsung and numerous staff members.

In short, the race was a microcosm of what our Yachad members go through every day as they face life’s challenges and meet them with the support and encouragement of others. For that I am grateful and thankful to Yachad for having given me yet another opportunity to experience “Kulanu B’yachad” from a different perspective.

OU | Enhancing Jewish Life