By Penina Torczyner, 11th grade, SKA
Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities, held its 12th annual High School Leadership Shabbaton on Shabbat ParashatLechLecha, October 31–November 2. Hundreds of high-schoolers and Yachad members—including 20 sophomores and juniors from the Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls—were hosted in the Stamford Plaza Hotel in Connecticut for leadership training and experience working with the special-needs population. There was also a lot of inspiration and fun!
The Shabbaton started off with an energetic Friday-night program filled with lots of singing, dancing, and achdut. Throughout the Shabbat, there was a series of inspirational speakers, including Ariella Barker and Alex Elegudin. Both of these fascinating individuals shared their stories about how they were able to accomplish so much in their lives, despite their physical limitations. Alex was able to initiate the nonprofit organization Wheeling Forward, which refurbishes and distributes used wheelchairs, while Ariella won Ms. Wheelchair North Carolina and actively participates in disability advocacy.
Over the course of the weekend, there were panels for various Yachad programs run throughout the year so that anyone interested could learn more about them. Shabbos day was filled with games, sessions, and a ton of fun, including a huge circle time with hundreds involved. A spirited melavehmalkah and color war ended off the Shabbos with a bang. Before leaving on Sunday, everyone split up into groups and discussed how each person could take the lessons learned during the weekend and become an innovator in their community.
Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman, Yachad’s international director and dean of IVDU School, explained that every individual can make a difference and be a leader, no matter how small they think they are. This left each person motivated to be a positive influence on others. Overall, everyone who attended had an amazing time. Hopefully, the Yachad program will only expand the number of participants who are involved in their wonderful events.