Mothers of children with disabilities tend to have busier lives than other mothers. The Orthodox Union’s Yachad/National Jewish Council for Disabilities, is offering them a program called Relax and Renew, with yoga and support groups.
Until now, this service has not been available locally, but on Wednesday, Oct. ‘5, Yachad will open its first New Jersey office in Teaneck. (Yachad does maintain a chapter in southern New Jersey but not an office.)
Teaneck resident Chani Herrmann, formerly the director of clinical services at Yachad’s New York office, will coordinate Yachad programming statewide with the help of six part-time employees and a group of volunteers.
Yachad will share the OU’s National Conference of Synagogue Youth’s office on Queen Anne Road in Teaneck.
"The amazing thing about Yachad," Herrmann said, "even though the programs are geared toward children and adults with special needs, the whole family gets involved. The family feels supported and connected."
From 10 a.m. to ‘ p.m. at Wednesday’s grand opening, families can meet with Herrmann and other staff to discuss Yachad’s programs. Then at 8 p.m. Rabbi Michael and Beth Taubes will host a gathering with Teaneck Mayor Elie Y. Katz, Rabbi Steven Burg, national director of NCSY, and Yachad staff at their home.
"Yachad is dedicated to addressing the needs of all individuals with disabilities," Katz said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "Certainly Teaneck has, unfortunately, residents that could use their services. It is good to have this available to the entire community."
While New Jersey and northern Jersey in particular has been able to benefit from the proximity of the New York headquarters, this new office will act as a hub to provide a wider array of services in New Jersey, said Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman, national director of Yachad/NJCD. The group has a number of offices throughout the country in areas like Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami. One reason New Jersey did not have a Yachad office was because it is near New York.
But "there’s so much need and we’re better able to respond to that need with an office in New Jersey," Lichtman said. "We have lots of families we’re aware of and other families that can benefit from our services. We’re hoping to use this base to better deliver those services."
Upcoming programs include weekend retreats, a buddy program, and a special education workshop in November in Livingston, which will focus on mental health, general studies, Judaic studies, music, and art.
"The effect will be really amazing," Herrmann said. "Even though the programs are geared toward children and adults with special needs, the whole family gets involved. The family feels supported and connected."
Many families come to Yachad for support, Herrmann said. It helps with school placement, difficulty in existing schools, and transitioning out of school and into the work world.
"Parents are often stuck. They don’t know where to go after school," Herrmann said.
Building social skills is another focus of the group, Herrmann said. It has run a group in Teaneck for several years to help people with disabilities build certain skills like how to introduce themselves, how to make a phone call, and the concept of personal space.
All of Yachad’s programming is geared toward the idea of inclusion, Lichtman said.
"We hope over time we will have an impact not just on individual families but virtually on the entire community, creating that more inclusive Jewish community," he said.