Yachad New Jersey To Host Virtual Annual Gala On January 9

07 Jan 2021

Event to Honor Teaneck’s ‘Coach Gila’ and Fair Lawn’s Benjy & Shifra Leibowitz; And Pay Tribute to Donny Hain z”l

TEANECK, New Jersey – Yachad New Jersey, the local branch of the leading organization for individuals with disabilities in the Orthodox community, will hold its annual gala on Saturday evening, Jan. 9, where the honorees will be “Coach Gila” Guzman of Teaneck and Rabbi Dr. Benjy and Shifra Leibowitz of Fair Lawn.

The event is being held virtually this year in order to maintain the safety of all participants. The program will begin with an inspiring musical Havdalah and mini concert with Simcha Leiner, followed by a special video tribute program to honor those who have made a difference in the lives of those with disabilities. There will also be special presentations to high school seniors who have demonstrated a strong commitment to Yachad, by volunteering at ongoing programs in The Mendel Balk Yachad Center.

Later in the evening, there will be a tribute to Donny Hain (z”l), the beloved and long-time Yachad participant, who passed away this past spring. Hain grew up in Teaneck, and participated in Yachad Shabbatonim, summer programs, and the adult day program at The Mendel Balk Yachad Center. The event will include a special dedication of The Donny Hain (z”l) Yachad Center Lounge at Yachad’s offices in Teaneck, NJ.

The organization will bestow its Women’s Leadership Award on “Coach Gila” Guzman, who for the past few years has been teaching healthy eating and cooking to the participants in Yachad’s adult day program. Guzman enjoys international notoriety from her popular private and group coaching programs. In addition to teaching nutrition and healthy cooking classes at Ma’ayanot High School for Girls in Teaneck, she is the in-house nutrition coach at Grand and Essex in Bergenfield, New Jersey and has her own line of “Coach Gila-approved” healthy takeout food at the store. She also serves as the nutritional specialist at Camp Mesorah, where she has worked with many of the Yachad participants who spend summers in Yachad’s summer programs on its campus. Guzman resides in Teaneck with her husband, Carl, and their five children.

Rabbi Dr. Benjy and Shifra Leibowitz will receive the Young Leadership Award for their years of commitment to Yachad, most recently serving as co-directors of Yachad’s Morris Sandelbaum Fellowship Program. Previously, Rabbi Dr. Leibowitz has served as the boys’ head counselor for Camp Morasha Yachad and later as its director of vocational programming. He has also served as a coordinator in the senior division of Yachad New York, and has helped co-edit the Yachad Siddur, the first of its kind geared towards making Tefillah more inclusive for those with disabilities. The couple resides in Fair Lawn with their three children.

For more information, or to register, please visit: https://www.yachad.org/newjersey/gala/

“This year has brought its challenges for our entire community, especially those with disabilities, and our team, volunteers and supporters have stood ready to face the times and help those most vulnerable,” said Raquel Selevan, director of Yachad New Jersey. “We’re excited to fete Coach Gila, Benjy and Shifra at our upcoming gala to celebrate their longstanding impact on Yachad both locally as well as nationally.”

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.