The Mendel Balk Yachad Adult Community Center, which opened in Teaneck last year to support adults with disabilities, has attracted many participants, including Sara Gdanski, a former student at the Frisch School in Paramus. Her enthusiasm for the center spurred her parents, Ilana and Jeff Gdanski, to host an event, along with Sharonne and Zvi Rudman, at their Englewood home to help introduce the center to their community. The first-of-its-kind center is a social spot where both Yachad members and high school and college students can spend their evenings enjoying art, basketball, pottery, theater, and activities geared toward Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education.
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On January 6, the Gdanskis welcomed New Jersey Yachad staff and their own neighbors for a successful parlor meeting to support the center. The guests included Rabbi Zev and Chana Reichman of East Hill Synagogue and Rabbi Menachem Genack of Congregation Shomrei Emunah, both in Englewood. The Balk family has matched donations pledged at the meeting.
NJ Yachad event co-hosts Zvi and Sharonne Rudman, left, with NJ Yachad director Chani Herrmann, and co-hosts Ilana and Jeff Gdanski. (Photos by Abbie Sophia Photography)
Chani Hermann, New Jersey Yachad’s director, talked about inclusion, which is the Mendel Balk Yachad Community Center’s mission. “What makes this center so attractive is that along with superb programs, it provides dinner for its members as well as transportation home, freeing up parents for other responsibilities,” she said. “What’s more, the center offers a warm and welcoming place for people to build relationships, develop a sense of community and independence, and help them grow into meaningful adulthood.”
New Jersey Yachad offers both a variety of inclusive programs for people with special needs and emotional support for all members of the family. Opening the new center was one of Yachad’s most substantial undertakings in this last year.
Avi Tsadok of Englewood, a NJ Yachad member, with guests from the Englewood community.
“The Yachad Center not only offers important services to kids with special needs, but also offers incredible opportunities for the entire community to stay involved,” Ilana Gdanski said. “It truly becomes a part of your life.”
Sharonne Rudman volunteered to co-host the meeting after seeing the impact the center has had on so many people. “I recently attended a Yachad Shabbaton at my shul — East Hill Synagogue — and noticed that a lot of the kids that hang out at the center were there,” she said. “Seeing those kids and teens interact and getting to know each other was so heartening. I wanted to build on that experience by getting together with parents who have children eligible to volunteer at the center and letting them know just how much it helps our kids.” High school students and young adults can join members daily by volunteering for, or participating in, a variety of activities.
Rabbis Zev Reichman and Menachem Genack
“Fundraisers like this one are vital,” Ms. Herrmann said. “The costs of running the center are high and continue to climb as Yachad meets the needs of more and more community members. This fundraiser helped the center to keep its doors open while maintaining the highest quality programming with appropriate staff ratios.”
“The event was a special opportunity for the Englewood community to learn more about the center and show their support. Community-building and inclusion starts with us. Having the first fundraiser for the center in Englewood was moving and significant because the center was named in memory of Mendel Balk, z”l, who lived in Englewood. His family still lives there and are active members of the East Hill Synagogue,” Ms. Gdanski said.
The Mendel Balk Yachad Adult Community Center is at Heichal HaTorah, 70 Sterling Place in Teaneck. It is open Monday through Thursday, from 4 to 7 p.m. For more information, go to www.yachad.org/newjersey/englewood2018. For more information about getting involved at the Center, email Racheli Israeli at firstname.lastname@example.org.