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Happenings around Hamaspik

Conversation skills?  Let’s talk about it!

Step into the Women’s Division of Hamaspik of Rockland County’s Day Habilitation program any day now, and chances are you’ll find that social skills are the talk of the town.  

And that’s quite the literal statement. 

That’s because, since their inception two months ago, regular social-skills and communication groups have been part of the weekly regimen.  

Under the watchful eye of proactive director Mrs. Esty Schonfeld and staff, the young women supported by Day Hab are increasingly learning the art of the spoken word—how to better verbally communicate, how to articulate complex feelings, and how to effectively share.  

Reticence, hesitance, awkwardness and other forms of loss for words are a universal challenge—and all the more so for people with developmental disabilities, contending as they must not just with this typical problem, but with their own self-awareness, too.  

Enter Day Hab’s conversation-skills groups.  

Sitting in a large circle for each session, each is granted the full attention of the rest as they deliver timed free-flowing comments on a targeted subject.  

“The session is to prompt them to talk,” says Mrs. Schonfeld. 

“The aim is to bring them to the next level.”

Flying Sky-High in Westchester
Everything Pinchos Knopfler and his superlative staff do is positively stratospheric in terms of keeping the people they support, proactively supported. 
Thus, the Men’s Division of the Hamaspik of Rockland County Day Habilitation (Day Hab) Program, which Mr. Knopfler has run for years now, found itself paying a heady visit to Westchester County Airport. 
The two dozen-plus young men were accompanied by capable Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) [names here] for their first-ever visit to the facility. 
With the sprawling municipal airfield now serving seven passenger airlines in addition to private and commercial air traffic, Westchester Airport is a hub of constant take-offs and landings that had the gentlemen thrilled. 
For close to two hours, the “Day Habbers” watched aircraft of all sizes take to the skies or return to earth, a thrill brought literally all the more up close and personal what with the airport’s small-town size and feel. 
They may not have been going anywhere.  But in terms of expanding their horizons and getting out of their zones of routine, the gentlemen of Hamaspik of Rockland County’s Day Hab were flying high.
Going to shul, like everyone else
Walk into the elegant tiled lobby of Wesley Hills’ Congregation Shaar Hashomayim (Gates of Heaven) synagogue anytime, and you’ll find a professionally printed giant seating chart. 
Congregants’ names are presented clearly in rows of boxes, each representing a seat under Shaar Hashomayim’s soaring ceiling. 
At the top of the sheet, then, you’ll find reserved places for the rabbi and his sons up front. Row after row of neatly boxed surnames follow, all roughly following the shul’s floor plan. 
And, comprising the bulk of the bottom right box-row, you’ll spy a line of spaces all reserved for the individuals of Hamaspik. 
The individuals granted those seats are not last because they’re least.  The back-row placement, reserved for the young men with considerable disabilities who reside at the nearby Arcadian Briderheim IRA, is deliberate for the simple reason of proximity to the sanctuary’s main doors—plus the fact that rear-row seating grants the boys ample room for wheelchairs to maneuver free of another row behind them. 
They’ve been coming here for years with nothing but love, reports Home Manager Shlomo Lebowitz. 
Because at this community synagogue, like every other community synagogue, everybody has a place.  Including Hamaspik.

Homing In On Caring for Seniors in Borough Park
When Hamaspik of Kings County (or any Hamaspik agency, for that matter), says that it cares for the entire community, it means it! 
Building on its trendsetting community mandate of effective supports across the age spectrum, Hamaspik—in this case, Hamaspik of Kings County—recently secured designation of a private residence in Brooklyn’s Borough Park as an Individualized Residential Alternative (IRA). 
The designation makes the husband-and-wife home an official group residence under the New York State OPWDD, Hamaspik’s public-sector partner in running its existing dozen-plus IRAs across three counties. 
The couple had long been on Hamaspik’s radar. 
With their independence and self-care abilities a growing challenge, Hamaspik probed several avenues over the past year for securing the pair of seniors the regular support and oversight that they now needed.  Various government programs were looked at, but none were suitable due to the husband and wife not meeting those program’s qualifications. 
With becoming an OPWDD group home, though, it was a natural and long-overdue match.
Thanks to Hamaspik of Kings County’s efforts, the senior couple can feel right at home, right in their own home.

Key to the Future: Hamaspik of Orange County Men’s Day Hab Bakes Traditional Key-Shaped “Shlissel” Challah   In ancient tradition, and beyond the scope of this article, there are a number of reasons a specific springtime Shabbos is associated with abundance.   And a number of practices and customs from centuries past are kept to this day that symbolize that embrace of abundance.   Among them is the baking of challah with the theme of a key baked right in—commonly involving molding the raw dough, resulting in an edible object very much in the shape of a key.   But however you do it, the message—a prayer, really—is the same: May the coming months open doors of prosperity.   And opening doors of prosperity—personal and otherwise—was a hope and prayer that the gentlemen of Hamaspik of Orange County’s Day Hab program evoked this past April, as they engaged in baking their own “shlissel” (Yiddish for key) challah.   Sifting flour, mixing dough, then rolling, shaping and egg-brushing that dough, followed by baking it onsite was the order of the day—as the gentlemen eagerly awaited the opening of the oven doors… and the ushering in of good days to come.

On the Table Lag B’Omer to Shavuos, Kings to Rockland
Hamaspik of Kings County’s South 9th Shvesterheim IRA put it on the table with food.  Hamaspik of Rockland County’s Concord Briderheim IRA put it on the table with flowers.
But both put the holiday spirit on the table—the former, the fun-filled, outdoors-oriented festival of Lag B’Omer and the latter, the foliage-themed Biblical holiday of Shavuos (Pentecost).
Lag B’Omer, or the 33rd day of the Omer period between Passover and Shavuos, is typically celebrated with bonfires, barbeques, bow-and-arrow games and other outdoor fun.  Shavuos marks the Giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, said to miraculously sprout with verdant vegetation prior.
To celebrate Lag Omer, which fell this year on a May 3 Thursday, South 9th Manager Mrs. Cziment, Assistant Manager Mrs. Walter and staff served up a storm of freshly-grilled goods.  Burgers, hot dogs and fresh vegetables were prepared on South 9th’s state-of-the-art outdoor grill and laid out on a table most primly set for the occasion.
To prepare for the Shavuos holiday theme—itself perhaps a symbol of personal growth—Concord’s residents worked their fingers as they worked paper maché into flowers under the watchful eye and helpful hand of Manager Mrs. Goldberger.
And at both IRAs, it was community-centric, faith-based and person-centered living at its best.