Nysha Recent News

Inclusion Hits Home at Hamaspik Birthday Party

September 25, 2015

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

Attendance of Local Yeshivah Students Highlights Agency’s Mainstreaming Mission

Everyone wants to belong. Who doesn’t?

Long before Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty, or give me death!”, the Talmudic sages of old said the same thing about friendship.

Furthering the powerful and abiding bonds of friendship and belonging this past Monday, August 10 was a surprise birthday party thrown by the Concord group home for two residents.

That Individualized Residential Alternative (IRA), one of several operated for years now by Hamaspik of Rockland County, is home to a group of young men with disabilities. Two of them, Nachmen W. and Joel, have birthdays around the same time.

They both are also high-functioning enough to be aware of where they’d be were they part of the typical mainstream—a fact that can be painful and loneliness-inducing at time.

In telling sensitivity to that fact, and out of proactive caring in general, Concord Manager Mrs. Shaindel Goldberger outdid herself once again by planning and executing a party for both.

But not just any birthday party.

Not even a surprise birthday party out in the warm summer weather of Concord’s backyard, replete with the attendance of all other Concord residents, plus immediate family members and even Hamaspik administrative staffers.  Oh, no—not good enough for Mrs. Goldberger. The manager had an entire yeshivah class come by.

The young men who poured into the backyard that sunny afternoon, along with their rebbi (instructor), were Joel’s age. Had he been in a standard yeshivah like theirs, he’d be their classmate—one of the guys.

Now, he was.

For the next two hours, the students and their teacher huddled around the table with Nachmen and Joel at their head, focusing all their attention on them—but as brothers, not subjects.

One of the many highlights of the brotherly visit were the recitation of grammen, cleverly worded rhyming poetry read with a lyrical singsong of its own. The grammen, popular in the community and composed here especially for the two young men, left the twosome positively floored and flattered.

With the day also being the yahrzeit of Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, the late Satmar Rebbe (1887-1979), the teacher also shared several telling tales of spiritual inspiration from the Rebbe’s leadership by example—stories told exactly as they would have been in yeshivah.

The ebullient atmosphere reached a mountainous climax when one of the guys started singing.

Spontaneously, and almost in direct reaction, two others took to their feet and started dancing. Nachmen joined the outburst of joy, swinging his arms to the beat, and soon a whole group of brothers were on the impromptu outdoor dance floor.

“He felt like a regular bochur [yeshivah student],” said Mrs. Goldberger of the event she conceived and began planning a month out. “It was a real surprise.”

But the surprise wasn’t just that a bunch of people came out of nowhere and cried, “Happy birthday!”

It was that a world that the twosome believed they could never quite be a part of, the world of the yeshiva, could indeed allow them entry—at least for a day. And not just admit and embrace them, but come to them, rather than they go to it.

If the two previously never felt they belonged, they did now.