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Friday, October 19, 2018

(Courtesy of Yachad) The Mendel Balk Yachad Adult Community Center just opened its doors last year, and already it is making an impact on young people in northern New Jersey. It drew in Sara Gdanski, a 12th grader at The Frisch School, whose enthusiasm for the center spurred her parents, Ilana and Jeff Gdanski, to host a sushi and dessert evening at their home to introduce the center to others interested in learning more about it.

On January 6 from 8 to 10 p.m., New Jersey Yachad held their inspiring and successful event in support of the center at the Gdanski home, co-hosted by Sharonne and Zvi Rudman. Chani Hermann, director of New Jersey Yachad, delivered words of inspiration about inclusion and what the center is all about.

About 60-70 people attended, including Rabbi Zev and Chana Reichman of East Hill Synagogue and Rabbi Menachem Genack of Shomrei Emunah. Ariela Balk is matching donations from the event to ensure the success and growth of its programs.

New Jersey Yachad creates inclusive programs for individuals with special needs and provides emotional support for all members of the family. One of Yachad’s newest and most substantial undertakings in the last year is the Mendel Balk Yachad Adult Community Center. The one-of-a-kind center is a social spot where Yachad members and high school and college students spend their evenings doing art, basketball, pottery, theater and STEM activities.

The center is located at Heichal HaTorah, 70 Sterling Place in Teaneck. It is open Monday through Thursday, 4-7 p.m. The meals and social activities there have a greater significance: The center is a warm and welcoming place for people to build relationships and develop a sense of community and independence and grow and develop into adulthood.

“The center is not only offering incredible opportunities for kids with special needs, but it is offering incredible opportunities for the whole community to be involved,” said Ilana Gdanski. “It becomes part of your life.”

Sharonne Rudman volunteered to co-host the even after seeing the impact the center has on people. “I came from a Yachad shabbaton at my synagogue, East Hill Synagogue, and a lot of the kids that hang out at the center were there, and seeing the kids and teenagers interact and get to know each other was heartening.” Sharonne wanted to build on that experience and get together with other parents who have children who are eligible to help out at the center to let them know what it does for the kids. High school students and young adults can join members daily for a variety of activities at the center. For more information about getting involved, please contact Racheli Israeli at [email protected]

This event was a special opportunity for the Englewood community to learn more about the center and show support for the community-building and inclusion that starts there. Having the first fundraiser for the center in Englewood was moving and significant because the center was named in memory of Mr. Mendel Balk, z”l, who was from Englewood. His family continues to live in Englewood and is part of the East Hill Synagogue.

Fundraisers like this one are vital so that Yachad can include anyone who wishes to join the center regardless of cost. Many Yachad families have significant financial obligations and don’t have the resources to pay for recreational programs. What makes this program unique is that it runs four evenings a week, and the center provides dinner and transportation home so that parents don’t have to drive. Parents can then devote their time to other children who are home in the evenings, and the center can truly become the center of social life for its members.

The costs of running the center are high and they keep climbing as Yachad meets the needs of more community members. This fundraiser allows the center to keep the doors open and maintain the highest quality programs with the appropriate staff ratios. It was an ideal way to share some of the fun and enjoyment that members find every week at the center.

New Jersey Yachad is still collecting donations for the event. Please contact Chani Herrmann at [email protected] for more information on this unique and special opportunity to give, or visit https://www.yachad.org/Englewood2018.

For more information about the Mendel Balk Yachad Adult Community Center, visit https://www.yachad.org/services/mbyacc.