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Yachad Detroit brings more Jewish inclusion for individuals with special needs.
Shelli Liebman Dorfman I Contributing Writer
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on the truest lever said Jeff Lazar, Yachad
Detroit director. The group works with 20
individuals ages 8-39, with a wide range of
"Detroit had an active Yachad chapter
about 20 years ago, but then it fizzled out"
Lazar said. "We decided to reopen it in
The chapter was recreated after
the director of Cleveland Yachad met
Aish youth group staff member Bayla
Hochheiser of Oak Park at an NCSY youth
group convention. Needing some assis-
tance, it was suggested she contact Lazar,
who had been involved in Detroit's original
Lazar and Hochheiser, now Yachad
Detroit's assistant director, held a parent
gathering last July.
"The meeting was a place to talk about
our needs for our children, and I shared
my main concern," Friedman said. "When
my kids were in Jewish day schools, we
always heard that the school will teach
them about Judaism but that we have to
follow through at home. Now we're at
the opposite point. Danny has Judaism at
home, but we were looking for a place for
him to follow through in the community"
Danny became a bar mitzvah at
Congregation B'nai Moshe and graduated
from the Frankel Jewish Academy, both in
"But, after high school, there was little
for him to be included in Jewishly," his
"A lot of the families who attended that
meeting were already involved with other
Jewish agencies," said Ethan Gross of West
Bloomfield, whose son Jacob, 16, partici-
pates in Yachad programs. "But many of
them lived in Southfield and Oak Park and
said there were few activities on their side
"The missing piece for those who are
observant is a good inclusion program that
does religious study and has kosher events
but also is open to everybody, whether they
are observant or not"
Lazar said, "Yachad gives participants
a link to camaraderie they're not getting
8 May 2 • 2013
"Yachad volunteers are genuine Friedman
said. "They are part of Yachad because they
want to be there"
The first Yachad Detroit volunteer was
Zach Herschfus, 15, of Southfield, who has
been involved with Friendship Circle and
individuals with special needs for several
years. Zach's mom, Fern, was active in a
New York chapter of Yachad while in high
school and became involved in the original
Detroit chapter in the early 1990s.
A student at Akiva Hebrew Day School
in Southfield, Zach invited his school
friends, 15-year-old twins, Alyssa and
Noah Adler of Southfield, and Yardena
Schwarcz, 16, of Oak Park, to join Lazar
and him at a Yachad leadership seminar in
Connecticut last fall.
"After an inspiring weekend of leader-
ship training, networking and brainstorm-
Sara Unger, 17, of Oak Park shows off
the project she made to go along with
the Torah study.
ing, we returned to Detroit energized"
said Zach, president of Yachad Detroit's
high school board, with Alyssa, Noah and
Yardena serving as board members. Next
year, the board will include a Yachad mem-
ber as well.
"We are in discussion with Akiva to
build programming, volunteering and sen-
sitivity training as well as chesed (loving-
kindness) projects that involve the whole
school" Lazar said. "We hope this will also
inspire other schools to participate. In
addition, we are looking for partnerships
with other agencies and synagogues"
Yardena said, "I immediately fell in love
with the program and the people involved.
I enjoyed the concept of Yachad so much
that I applied to go on a Yachad summer
program in Israel" that brings high school
students together with Yachad members.
In January, several individuals involved
with Yachad Detroit trained and participat-
ed on Team Yachad in the ING Miami Half-
Marathon to raise funds and awareness for
individuals with special needs. They were
Hochheiser, Zach and Yachad volunteers
Elana Greenbaum, 17, of Southfield and
Isaac Wolfe, 15, of West Bloomfield.
Noah and Zach recently attended a
Yachad high school leadership Shabbaton
in New Jersey focusing on advocacy train-
ing and lobbying.
"From there we traveled to Washington,
D.C., along with Yachad members from
across the country, to lobby our congress-
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