Simcha Program. Social interaction is supposed to be fun! When you are a person challenged with a developmental, psychiatric, or cognitive disability, and struggling with social skill deficits, it can sometimes be difficult to enjoy spending time with others. Many individuals may be well suited for many circumstances in life but exhibit poor social and dating skills. Proper support can be helpful in taking the necessary steps needed to make the connections we want and to deepen the relationships we already have.
For over 10 years, Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services has been offering the Morris Pinsky a’h Simcha Program, innovative groups which help adults with disabilities increase their socialization and communications skills.
Now Ohel is offering this same program to non-Ohel clients. Sarah Kahan, a seasoned and licensed Ohel social worker and coordinator of Ohel’s Simcha Program, remarks, “Ohel has successfully run these groups for many years and helped facilitate dating which has led to marriage in numerous instances.”
The Simcha Program is offered in both the Five Towns at Ohel’s new Spruce Street office in Cedarhurst, as well as Ohel’s main office in Brooklyn. Program elements include workshops, outings, evening events, and date coaching.
The Simcha Program personifies Ohel’s commitment to breaking down stigma in the community. Many participants in the program have remarked over the years that some matchmakers are dismissive of them once they learn they have a disability.
As David Mandel, CEO of Ohel, remarks, “People with disabilities, just like others seek to love, to give to another, and be loved. A disability should not disqualify someone who is effectively managing their illness or disability to seek their bashert and build a bayit ne’eman b’Yisrael.”
For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, call 800-603-OHEL, or visit ohelfamily.org/simchaprogram.
SibShops. Whether from a family with a child challenged by autism or Down Syndrome, a diversity of siblings—Ashkenazi to Sephardi, Chassidic, to Modern Orthodox—have become regular participants in Ohel Bais Ezra’s dynamic SibShops program. These support groups in Flatbush, Far Rockaway, and the Five Towns, for siblings aged 7-16, successfully bring together children of different backgrounds that are the brothers and sisters of children and young adults with developmental disabilities. There are separate groups for boys and for girls.
In these family situations, while the typical sibling is characteristically very supportive in an often overwhelming environment, he or she commonly finds neither the time nor the opportunity to reflect upon or share his or her own inner feelings about the challenges and concerns they may face.
SibShops provides the safety in groups where these siblings can discuss their feelings, share their trials, and ask the questions they would find difficult to ask their own parents. SibShops has created lifelong friendships between children of shared experiences. More and more, these sibling participants spend time together outside of their SibShop group meetings—in each other’s homes, weddings, and more.
One parent enthusiastically said, “Our daughter has made such wonderful friends through the SibShops. This past Sunday, the girls spent a good part of the day together. She said, ‘Mommy, we were walking together on the street, two Satmar girls, a Lubavitcher girl, and me!’ So we both thank you for creating this opportunity for our daughter and for making siblings of special children feel special in their own way.”
According to Chayale Greenwal, senior manager of the SibShops program, “This program is a first of its kind; never has such a program been offered in the Jewish community. This program gives a voice to those siblings who have sometimes felt that they are not being heard.”
In partnership and under the leadership of Don Meyer, founder of SibShops, Ohel Bais Ezra has trained SibShop facilitators, and the program is now being offered to three different age groups of different sexes. The growth of the program has been phenomenal and Ohel Bais Ezra is looking to continue to break down barriers and expand even further in the New York City and New Jersey area.
The connection that the participants establish is truly unique and exceptional, as one sibling stated to her mother, “These friends aren’t like my other friends; there is some special connection amongst all of us in SibShops.”
For more information, please call Chayla at 718-686-3497, e-mail email@example.com, or visit www.ohelfamily.org/sibshops.
Annual chol haomoed adventure. This chol hamoed Pesach, over 70 individuals from Ohel Bais Ezra’s many day programs enjoyed fun and excitement at Six Flags Great Adventure! The children with various developmental disabilities, who were accompanied by a team of Ohel volunteers and professionals, came from throughout the five boroughs and got to hang out in the wonderful sun, go on scary and exciting rides, and even say hello to some of their favorite cartoon characters!
The abilities and needs of each child were attended to, with some enjoying the fast roller coasters, others the less intimidating rides, and some groups who just enjoyed walking around the park, shopping, and watching the great shows offered by the theme park.
It was a day of sun, fun, and a lot of picture taking when everybody got to meet their favorite cartoon characters at the park and see some of their favorite movies come to life on the rides.
Ohel Bais Ezra provides a range of innovative programs and services for those with developmental disabilities. The chol hamoed trip is part of Ohel’s many recreational and respite programs throughout the year for children and individuals aged 5-21. For more information about Ohel Bais Ezra programs, or other Ohel services which you can benefit from, please contact 800-603-OHEL, firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit ohelfamily.org. v