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Yachad Community Center provides a home base for Jews with special needs

Journal Staff

Yachad members sing, dance, and act at a recent event at the site of their new community center.

NOVEMBER 22, 2018, BROOKLINE – New England Yachad runs over 400 programs a year to help Jews with special needs live full, productive, Jewish lives. On Dec. 2, the organization will unveil a new community center inside Congregation Kehillath Israel in Brookline that will serve as the organization’s headquarters and provide a wide array of new services.

“The Yachad Community Center will be a place that Jewish children, teens, adults, and older adults with disabilities can call home,” said Executive Director Liz Offen. “Having this community center will enable Yachad to deepen our existing programs, while expanding the offerings to meet the growing need for daytime programs, social and recreational activities, informal education, and intergenerational activities.”

The new community center will feature a series of offices, two multipurpose rooms, and a kosher kitchen. Other nonprofits on the Kehillath Israel campus will allow Yachad participants access to classrooms, conference rooms, a library, and space for gala events. The proximity also will provide opportunities for joint programming between different organizations.

Yachad has been able to raise several hundred thousand dollars for its new facility. Throughout the process, the Ruderman Family Foundation has provided support, financial and more.

“For many years, the Ruderman Family Foundation has continued to provide important guidance and support that has led Yachad to grow in a sustainable and successful way,” said Offen. “The Yachad Community Center is unique and a tribute to the pro-disability attitude the Ruderman Foundation has established in the Greater Boston Jewish community.”
Offen pointed out that Sharon Shapiro, the director of Ruderman’s Boston office, sits on the Yachad board and consulted regularly throughout the construction and fundraising process. Other support for the project has come from Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation, and the Orthodox Union.

Yachad is rapidly expanding. It has partnered with an increasing number of synagogues and Jewish schools across New England, and plans to implement more programming and collaborations. A combination of the new community center and a fund called the Campaign for Yachad’s Future will allow for more programming, such as a drop-in center, lounge nights, a culinary arts and nutrition program, family activity nights, a mitzvah club, and a hot kosher dinner program.

There will be an official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new community center at 11 a.m. on Dec. 2 that will be open to the public at Congregation Kehillath Israel, 384 Harvard St., Brookline. It will include speakers, tours of the building, and activities, and plans are underway for the Yachad choir to perform.

For Offen, the community center is central to Yachad’s mission.

“The administrative hub is in our new Brookline campus, our commitment goes beyond bricks and mortar,” she said. “We aim to bring joy and friendship across our region, and to dispel the darkness of loneliness and isolation by building on the success of Yachad programs in reaching the most vulnerable among us, and placing inclusion at the center of Jewish life.”

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