By Gwen Bloom
When asked if he would like to participate in an article for Belong magazine about his career path, Bezalel Kosofsky, a 32-year-old Yachad member emailed this note with great pride. “Since 2006, I have worked at Chestnut Holdings of New York, a real estate agency in Riverdale. At Chestnut Holdings, I am in charge of all tenant correspondence filing in the file room. Some of that involves speaking with the 40+ Chestnut employees on a daily basis.”
“On the job, I use a lot of the information that I learned at school,” he continued. “I took classes in computer technology, specifically Microsoft programs such as Excel, Word, and Outlook. I use various social skills when interacting with other employees. I retrieve mail for the company, deliver deposits to various financial institutions, and perform other varied administrative tasks when called upon. I feel very comfortable with my co-workers at Chestnut Holdings and I believe that my educational training as a young man prepared me well for this job.”
Those in charge at Chestnut Holdings, a family firm, hired Bezalel long before it was popular to hire individuals with disabilities — they truly were pioneers! Bezalel’s success story began at Yachad when he was 12-years-old and met a peer named Binyamin Rieder; the two became fast friends and grew up together. As they got older Binyamin became a Yachad coordinator and their friendship remained strong. He continued to serve as a mentor as Bezalel received vocational training. Binyamin brought his friend into Chestnut Holdings where he serves as the chief operating officer, trained him himself, and the rest is history.
Bezalel likes to keep busy — he enjoys being independent and productive. He works at Chestnut Holdings on Monday, Thursday, and Friday, and at the Jewish Theological Seminary’s library every Tuesday and Wednesday.
Bezalel’s parents, Maxine and Sam, and his younger sister and her family are very proud of his accomplishments. He is a strong and kind man who appreciates his family and adores
being an uncle. His mother, Maxine, said, “Bezalel hates to miss a day on the job; he is punctual and very responsible. Last year my son had to take time off to have a wisdom tooth removed. He was truly upset at the thought of missing work. Bezalel is a very dependable employee. Sam and I are so proud of him and are so appreciative of the many people who have helped Bezalel get to where he is today. Those who took the time to see what he COULD do and helped him learn to do it!”
“The Yachad staff was with us every step of the way,” Maxine added. “Binyamin Rieder and the staff at Chestnut Holding opened doors for him and continue to be there for him. The staff at the Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary encourages Bezalel to figure things out on his own and to meet readers and assist them on his own. He is so happy.”
Chani Hermann, director of Yachad New Jersey says, “Bezalel and I go way back; both our families are members of the Young Israel of Hillcrest in Queens, NY. We became good friends when Binyamin Rieder and I were co-coordinators of Yachad’s Queens Chapter and Bezalel was an enthusiastic member of the group. We remain in touch and it gives me great pleasure to see him so happy and fulfilled. Bezalel has achieved so much over the years. Through his participation in Yachad programs he has grown socially, made many friends, and learned how to navigate the world around him. By attending Yachad Shabbatonim, Sunday programs, and social skills programming Bezalel has developed the skills that will take him anywhere he wants to go.”
Bezalel says, “Since 2003, I have worked at the Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary which is one of the largest Judaic libraries. I am in charge of sorting, separating, and putting away books in the main library. Some of that involves collecting books from the tables, putting them on separate carts, putting them in order using the Dewey decimal system, and putting them away on the correct shelves. I enjoy helping people find the books they are looking for.
“I am pleased to have these jobs and I go to work each morning knowing that my co-workers depend on me,” Bezalel said. “I earn a salary, I can take care of myself, and I am so thankful for the opportunities that I have had. Yachad has been so good for me.”
Gwen Bloom is the editor of Belong Magazine.