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February 01, 1991 - Image 82

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-02-01

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listens to

Stepping Out



A group of teens with developmental disabilities
has found new life through the Jewish
activities of Yachad.


Special to The Jewish News


riendship and accep-
tance can be found in
many places, but never
more abundantly than on a
cold winter night in the Oak
Park apartment of Shayndee
(Sheryl) and Elly (Eliott)
Lasson. There is no trace of
the cold inside as a group of
teen-agers, led by Mrs. Lasson,
gathers around the table for a
Hebrew reading lesson.
It could be any study group
of Jewish teens, except for the
fact that several of the
members happen to have
developmental disabilities.
But no one is paying too
much attention to the fact, as
the teens help each other
recognize Hebrew letters and
read simple words. And that
is the beauty of Yachad.
Yachad, a Hebrew word that
means "togetherness," is a
program sponsored by Na-



tional Council of Synagogue
Youth (NCSY) to provide a
Jewish experience for
teen-agers with developmen-
tal disabilities.
Founded in New York
almost 10 years ago by cur-
rent National Director Chana
Zweiter, Yachad provides an
array of programs that in-
clude study groups, Shab-
baton weekends, social ac-
tivities and outings, and sum-
mer trips throughout the
United States and to Israel.
Shayndee Lasson, who is a
children's speech and
language pathologist at
William Beaumont Hospital
in West Bloomfield, and the
mother of two-year-old
Yaakov (Jeffrey), became the
Detroit Yachad coordinator
when she moved to Oak Park
three years ago from Long
Island, N.Y.
The program has expanded
considerably since Mrs.
Lasson took over leadership of
the group. In addition to bi-

weekly study groups at the
Lasson home and quarterly
Shabbaton weekends in
Cleveland, Cincinnati, and
other cities, the Yachad group
has special holiday celebra-
tions and visits residents of

leads Yachad.

local nursing homes, taking
shalach manot baskets at
Purim time.
"We want to give the kids
the feeling they're not only
accepting other people's help,
but that they can give it also,"
said Mrs. Lasson.
Although the Detroit
Yachad program continues to
grow, Mrs. Lasson says that it
has still not attained the
popularity it enjoys in the
New York area.
"In New York, it's an honor
to host a Shabbaton; the
synagogues have waiting
lists," said Mrs. Lasson.
"Here, it's not catching on
like I hoped it would."
The Shabbaton weekends
are highlights of the Yachad
program, giving developmen-
tally disabled teen-agers the
chance to join other NCSY
teens for a weekend of wor-
ship, workshops and plenty of
singing and dancing. The
Yachad teens participate ac-
tively throughout the

weekend, receiving aliyot and
reciting divrei Torah (com-
mentaries about the weekly
Torah portion) alongside their
NCSY peers.
"They're treated like
anybody else, and they res-
pond to it," said Adrian
Christie, the father of
Gavin, an enthusiastic
Yachad participant. "This is
the only Jewish group I'm
aware of that mainstreams
and integrates kids like this."
Roslyn Grosky, the mother
of 18-year-old Seth, agrees.
"Yachad provides a social life
they wouldn't otherwise have,
and it makes them feel good
about themselves," she said.
Although NCSY an'd
Yachad are open to Jewish
teen-agers of all denomina-
tions, the programs and ac-
tivities are run from a tradi-
tional Jewish point of view.
"The fact that they can
identify themselves as Jews,
instead of as developmental-
ly disabled, really means a lot



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