Annual Yachad New Jersey Gala a Celebration of Inclusion and Integration

It was an evening of support, appreciation, camaraderie and inspiration as Yachad New Jersey held its annual gala, celebrating years of advocacy and opportunity for developmentally disabled individuals and their families.

A packed room of guests came to Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood on March 20th to celebrate the evening’s honorees and to show appreciation for the many individuals who give of their time and their resources to benefit Yachad’s many participants.

This year’s gala marked the debut of Yachad New Jersey’s business leader award, presented to Jeffrey Wilder and Sean Charnow of Wilder Ventures Hotel Investments. Wilder, a Fort Lee resident, and Charnow, a resident of Woodcliff Lake, hired Yachad participant Micah Lippe as a member of their maintenance staff and they consider adding Yachad members to their team to be a smart business move. In addition to being honored for their commitment to Yachad, Wilder and Charnow presented Lippe with an award of their own at the gala, gifting him a plaque proclaiming him employee of the year.

Receiving this year’s Yachad Family Award were Rabbi Davidand Jacki Gorelik of Passaic and their son Eli Gorelik. Both Rabbi and Mrs. Gorelik have been extremely involved with Yachad for years and have played a crucial role in the launch of Passaic’s Wednesday night programming, while Eli is a beloved Yachad participant who works part time at both Seasons and The Jewish Link. Eli’s thoughtful original d’var Torah was one of the highlights of the gala giving participants a true glimpse of how Yachad participants shine, not only during program events, but also in the mainstream world.

Also honored this year was Teaneck-Bergenfield photographer Abbie Sophia, who was presented with the Women’s Leadership Award in recognition of her ongoing efforts showcasing Yachad programming and capturing meaningful portraits of participants. As in previous years, a group of ten twelfth graders from local yeshivas were honored with the High School Seniors Leadership Award in recognition of their involvement in Yachad, which ranges from volunteering with participants to heading up Yachad clubs in their schools that discuss and promote inclusion, advocacy and sensitivity training.

The gala also marked the five year anniversary of the Mendel Balk Yachad Center, which has become part of the local culture and community since its opening, with daily programming and ongoing events. The center also houses a vocational training area and hands-on facilities where participants can learn shopping, daily life and home skills.

The gala marked the kickoff of Yachad’s Circle of Giving, a national initiative providing special recognition to those who donate $1,800 and up. The program was announced by Lawrence Rein, senior director of developmentfor Yachad New Jersey, who believes that visiting the Balk Center is the best way to appreciate the full spectrum of services offered to participants.

“Yachad is really here to support individuals with special needs at all levels, making their lives better and giving their families some much needed respite as well,” said Rein. “The center is really a place to be and a place to see, and we invite everyone to come visit, to see what goes on every day at Yachad New Jersey.”

Rocky Selevan, Director of Yachad New Jersey and Executive Director of JUF NJ described the gala as an incredible vehicle to demonstrate how Yachad bringspeople together, ensuring that every participant finds their place within the community, regardless of their level of ability, while providing them with opportunities for inclusion and integration.

“It was amazing to see how so many people who came to the dinner to support Yachad, support honorees, their own children, or their friend’s children were inspired and wanted to hear about opportunities for involvement,” said Selevan. “We are so grateful to all the honorees for spreading their love and support for Yachad New Jersey within the greater community so that others can experience it as well. It is their leadership that will excite more involvement within the community.”