Nysha Recent News

A Perfectly Person-centered Hamaspik Neighborhood Purim

March 13, 2017        

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

Home Residents, Family Care Beneficiaries All Active Community Participants

Perhaps Mrs. Fischer puts it best: “People there are unbelievable—they’re so warm to the boys!”

But the residence manager’s post-Purim reference to the immediate neighbors, and neighborhood, of the Forshay Briderheim IRA also applies all across Hamaspik.

Reflecting not just today’s milieu of mainstreaming of people with disabilities but of the mutual integration of Hamaspik group homes and surrounding communities, the long-time manager conveys a picture of complete integration, where disability warrants nary a second thought.

At least not come Purim across the world of Hamaspik.

Les Chocolatiers Amaspic”?!

Things weren’t just sweet but downright chocolatey Purim-time at Hamaspik of Kings County’s South 9th Shvesterheim IRA.

There, Manager Mrs. Cziment reports, residents didn’t just distribute the traditional shalach manos treats to friends, family and neighbors alike, but manufactured their own distributable goodies from raw edible material themselves.

Specifically, they transformed raw hunks of store-bough chocolate blocks into works of edible art.  Using the magic of heat, molds and a good touch of creativity, residents were churning out all sorts of chocolate treats of all sizes and shapes.

“We’ll be opening a chocolate factory!” summarily declares Mrs. Cziment.

It remains to be learned who enjoyed the home-made chocolates more: South 9th’s recipients, or the residents and young budding chocolatiers themselves.  In the meantime, Belgium has been put on notice…

Exchange of Purim spirit

If the young men who call Wannamaker home hadn’t already effectively brought the exuberant Purim spirit to the streets, the streets sufficiently compensated by bringing it to Wannamaker.

At that Hamaspik of Rockland County group home, reports manager Joel (Feish) Horowitz, residents had more than ample servings of fun slathering their Hamaspik van with Purim-related slogans and images a day or so before the holiday.

And on the holiday itself, of course, with merry music pumping throughout the residence, a group of young students from a local yeshivah, hardly content to keep Purim to themselves, burst through Wannamaker’s front doors in a semi-serious state to dance and sing with their neighbors and friends—for no reason other than it being Purim, of course.

Comical culture clash

So a 1940s New York businessman, a Middle Eastern sheik, a Chasidic rebbe, a circus ringleader and Mickey Mouse show up in a dining room. 

Is it a joke?  No.  It’s Purim prep at Hamaspik of Rockland County’s Concord Briderheim!

That was the scene in Concord’s dining room in the run-up to the merry festival, as several residents representing persons and professions who’d otherwise hardly meet met in a clashing, comedic collision of colors and cultures, none of which had anything to do with the other. (Unless, of course, the businessman was asked by Mickey Mouse to arrange a meeting with a rebbe and a sheik at which a circus professional happened to stumble in, or something like that.)

The nonsensical getups set the stage for the Purim holiday, whose tradition of costumes symbolize the hidden miracles of G-d behind the events of history.

What’s more, reports Manager Mrs. Goldberger, signage was prominently placed throughout the residence strictly forbidding all forms of frowning, dour faces, sour moods and the like on Purim.

Needless to say, Concord’s residents had a grand blast getting out and about in the local neighborhood on Purim day, bringing that indomitable Purim spirit to one and all.

Oh, goodie!

At the Arcadian Briderheim IRA, a Hamaspik of Rockland County group home long under the leadership of Manager Shlomo Lebowitz and capable staff, residents furthered their person-centered supports by gathering around the residence’s dining room table to select from an array of chocolatey and otherwise tasty treats with which to fill shalach manos goodie bags for loved ones.

Those personally-packed packages were later delivered on Purim day to the boys’ parents and Arcadian neighbors alike, as Arcadian’s van, loaded with residents and musical Purim spirit, made its local rounds.

Dressed as clowns, soldiers, cowboys, policemen, rabbis and other Purim staples, the Arcadian residents were supported with the fullest possible holiday community experience.

Besides hitting the road for goodie distribution, they also took in the nearest synagogue public reading of the Megillah, the central Book of Esther that is the axis of the holiday.  Synagogue-goers, long accustomed to the Arcadian boys in their midst, welcomed them with open arms—and that extra Purim smile.

Bringing it home

Hamaspik Family Care Liaison Nachman Ciment was busy behind the wheel for a good part of Purim—delivering shalach manos gifts of appreciation from the agency to its sizable corps of providers of the New York State OPWDD program.  (Hamaspik remains the state’s largest non-profit Family Care provider partner.)

While Hamaspik’s Family Care program delivered a message of support to those wonderful fathers and mothers who’ve opened their homes and hearts to beautiful children with disabilities over the years, likewise were those children themselves accompanied around town on Purim by their Family Care caregivers—ensuring that they were totally not left out on the jolly day.

That sentiment of inclusion culminated, by way of example, at the Purim feast of Grand Rabbi Leibish Rotenberg, also known as the Forshay Rebbe for the Monsey neighborhood he calls home—and a feast, like everything else at his large synagogue, that included the Rebbe’s neighbors from the Forshay Briderheim just across and down the road.

The Forshay Rebbe “includes them in everything he does with his kehilla [congregation],” Mrs. Fischer notes.

At Purim for the Forshay residents, coupled with their own pre-Purim shalach manos shopping with their Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) and their own money, that’s what putting inclusion on the table looks like.

That’s also what it looks like all across Hamaspik—with more than a little help from the neighbors.