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At Gala Annual Parties, Putting the People who Put People First, First

February 27, 2017        

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

Hamaspik of Kings, Rockland Hail Direct Support Professional (DSP) Teams

Sunday through Friday, Yitzchok Yaakov Goldstein is up and out of the house by 6:30 a.m. and on the job by a quarter to seven.  And about 40 miles south at the same time, when a lot of people are still getting out of bed, Shea Teichman is in the thick of work.

You’ll hardly read about their unsung work anywhere else.

They are among the hardest workers you’ll ever meet.  They are among the gentlest people you’ll ever meet.  And they gently do some of the hardest work out there.

Your friendly neighborhood Hamaspik pillar

Being a Direct Support Professional (DSP) is one thing.  Being a Hamaspik Direct Support Professional (DSP) is quite another.

For a collective 12 years, Messrs. Goldstein and Teichman have been Hamaspik DSPs.

The fresh-faced Mr. Goldstein still exudes boyish charm and spritely energy, working each day at Hamaspik of Rockland County’s Wannamaker Briderheim as if it’s his first.

Arriving at 2 Wannamaker Ct. in upstate Chestnut Ridge early each day but Saturday, Goldstein joins fellow DSPs Yechezkel “Chezky” Dershowitz, Simcha Goldberger and Yoel Kupczyk in supporting the residence’s residents as they get through their morning routines.  Come evening, Goldstein and his cohorts will repeat the morning’s process in reverse.  And the next morning, he’ll be back at it.

For his part, Shea Teichman doesn’t just do his job.  He lives and breathes it.  Working with DSP day-shift team members Moshe Grossman, Dov Klein and Yehuda Teichman each weekday morning, his support of residents around the house as they gear up for their days is more like brother helping brother—giving it the daily 110 percent that he does, and naturally and almost casually so.

He truly cares—as all Hamaspik DSPs do.  That’s what makes them Hamaspik DSPs.

These are but two of the many Hamaspik people who put people first.  And to honor and hail their elite level of hard work and true heart, Hamaspik of Kings and Rockland Counties both recently separately hosted their annual DSP appreciation events.

Bringing the message home

The lights were dim and the décor was elegant at the Hamaspik Terrace social hall in Monsey.

It was 10:00 p.m. Saturday night, February 25, and the crowd of Hamaspik of Rockland County DSPs and managers, all still in their Shabbos finery, was seated at round tables.

Serving as Master of Ceremonies was Joel Horowitz, doing double duty this evening. 

Throughout the year, the energetic young man serves as Manager of the Wannamaker Briderheim (and Mr. Goldstein’s proud and supportive boss).  Tonight, however, he was not only present to emcee the event, but to also personally help fill out the crowd paying appreciative homage to Hamaspik’s finest, the front-line foot soldiers that are its DSPs.

Other present Hamaspik of Rockland County staff included Men’s Day Habilitation Program Director Pinchos Knopfler, Day Services Director Shlomo Kornbluh, Quality Assurance officer Eliezer Appel, Grandview Briderheim IRA Manager Joel Schnitzer, Public Relations Director Pinchos Weinstock and Director of Residential Services Moshe Sabel.

In his brief but warm opening remarks, Mr. Horowitz first talked about remaining inspired and resolute in light of current events and trends. 

He then moved into a well-known account of two brothers and leaders in European Jewish history, both Chasidic Rebbes in their own right, who ended up together in a mass prison cell that was in offensively filthy condition. 

Happy for the opportunity to connect with G-d by accepting a very unpleasant situation, the two men were soon literally dancing for joy—bringing all the dejected fellow inmates to their feet, too.  But when a furious warden was shown the waste upon asking why everyone was dancing, the warden declared that he would show them—and proceeded to clean up the mess himself!

The moral of that true story, the manager reminded the audience, is that life is what one makes of it—and that while supporting individuals with disabilities is anything but glamourous at times, each adverse moment contains profound spiritual opportunity for personal growth.

For Hamaspik founder and Hamaspik of Rockland County Executive Director Meyer Wertheimer, who next took the floor, the event was a moment of reflection and identification.

Sharing personally with the crowd about his late first child, a boy with Down syndrome born nearly 40 years ago when supports were hardly what they are today, Mr. Wertheimer spoke from the heart, knowing full well from experience what special needs and direct support are all about.

Having been there in more ways than one, the Hamaspik leader emphasized the critical bedrock underlying all Hamaspik supports and services: heart.

“You can’t buy heart,” he said—going on to praise the Hamaspik DSPs for the heart they give every night and day, heart that amounts to the greatest and most selfless acts of giving.

Rabbi Meir Mordechai Berkowitz, a well-known inspirational speaker in the Chasidic community, next delivered the event’s keynote address.

Rabbi Berkowitz’s delivery was as powerful as it was punctuated with improvisational humor, conveyed the message that supporting individuals with disabilities, be they intellectual, physical or (as is often the case) both, is as critical a piece of the social-justice puzzle as any other cause.

When the event was over, the DSPs left the same way they came—but walked out feeling taller.

Supporting the supporters

The venue may have been different, but the atmosphere was the same the night of Monday, February 27.  Gathered in the second-floor private party room of a classy Brooklyn restaurant were the DSPs of Hamaspik of Kings County’s IRA residences for men.

As such, DSP Teichman found himself surrounded by his fellow front-liners—61st St. DSPs Mechel Freund, Meilich Gelb, Moshe Grossman, Dov Klein, Moishe Maleh, Avrumi Reinman, David Teichman, Yechiel Teichman and Yehuda Teichman.

In keeping with a long-standing residential policy not just person-centered but also family-centered, Hamaspik’s IRA residents are supervised each weekend by a rotation of duly-trained husband-and-wife DSP team.  Each lovingly stands in as father and mother figures for the residents, particularly at the family-heavy Friday-night and Saturday-noon Shabbos meals.

As such, the father halves of each “Shabbos couple” were likewise present at the event.  (Their better halves will be enjoying a Hamaspik DSP appreciation event of their own in the near future, the Gazette is told.)

Weekend staffers Mordechai “Mutty” Binet, Gershon Gale, Avrumie Horowitz, Duvid Schmeltzer and Joel Wertzberger of the 38th St. Shvesterheim were thus on hand, as were counterparts Eliyahu Botvinikov, Avigdor Follman, Shea Weisberg and Boruch Witriol of the South 9th Shvesterheim.

First mingling and getting to know fellow DSPs and Hamaspik staff, the honored guests caught up with old friends and made new ones while socializing over a sushi and salad bar.

With Emcee Yossi Moskovits, Manager of the 61st St. Briderheim formally calling the event to order, guests were seated around one long table—symbolizing and underscoring the unique camaraderie and esprit de corps that marks the Hamaspik employment experience.

The event’s keynote address was then introduced.

Yidel Melber, a popular community time-management and personal life coach, held forth on the subject of happiness in marriage and home. 

For close to an hour, Mr. Melber held the Hamaspik audience spellbound with his compelling, practical and positive message of getting out life what you put into it—a message sure to make the lives of agency DSPs, who already give so much in their professional lives, all the better in their personal lives.

Hamaspik of Kings County Executive Director Joel Freund then rounded out the event with a few heartfelt words of his own.  In his comments, Mr. Freund expressed appreciation, gratitude and thanks, both personally and behalf of the entire agency, for the exceptional work done day in, day out by Hamaspik’s DSPs.

And while those two deliveries were a message of appreciation and thanks enough, Hamaspik leadership also took the opportunity to invest in “training” its DSP corps for even better performance via inspiration—by giving each a copy of “As Long As I Live.” 

That book is the autobiography of Aaron Margalit, a man who triumphed over numerous serious birth disabilities and crushing later setbacks to live a life of soaring inspiration.

But chances are, given the inspiring performances they regularly put in, that Mr. Margalit would be inspired by the superlative daily work of each and every Hamaspik DSP, too.