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State Senator, Disability Advocate Simcha Felder at Hamaspik’s Borough Park Offices

State Senator, Disability Advocate Simcha Felder at Hamaspik’s Borough Park Offices

Nov. 10, '14
By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

The tall, contemporary glass-and-steel structure at 41st St. and 14th Ave. in Borough Park has its fair share of visitors every day.  But Thursday, November 7 saw a special guest cross the threshold of Hamaspik of Kings County’s administrative hub in the neighborhood’s heart: State Senator Simcha Felder.

Sen. Felder has long served as an advocate for the intellectually disabled, and not just as a public servant responding to constituent requests.

Besides representing his community and its population of children and adults with special needs, a population lovingly tended to by Hamaspik and quite a few other worthy non-profits, it’s also personal for Felder.  The Senator is the proud grandfather of a little boy with disability.

Accompanied by longtime aide Cheryl Neuman, Sen. Felder arrived at 11:00 a.m. that Thursday morning for a “constituency tour” of the facility and a chance to say hello to staff and individuals with special needs alike.

The public servants were greeted at the door by Hamaspik of Kings County Executive Director Joel Freund and Director of Development Naftali “Tully” Tessler.

After spending a few minutes of quality time touring the offices and chatting with Hamaspik’s Medicaid Service Coordinators (MSCs), supervisors, managers and program directors, Sen. Felder and Mrs. Neuman found themselves seated around the office’s conference-room table.  Seated along with them were Mr. Freund, Mr. Tessler, and Hamaspik of Kings County Intake Coordinator Mrs. Yehudis Heimfeld, a key staffer.

Sen. Felder exuded good cheer and his trademark humor in discussing what Hamaspik does and what Hamaspik needs, then asking how he could be helpful in any way—conveying that he was looking forward to advocating for Hamaspik however he can.  Among the subjects covered were the agency’s Medicaid Service Coordination, Community Habilitation (Comm Hab) and After-school Respite (ASR).

“It was a productive meeting from that point of view,” Mr. Tessler later told the Gazette.

Following the meeting, the visitors took the time to meet, greet and spend time with several individuals with intellectual disability on the premises at the time.  One of them, a tall, lanky and friendly high-functioning gentleman, engaged the Senator in conversation for a good few minutes.

Moments later, an emotionally up-front and honest individual with disability reached out to Sen. Felder from his wheelchair to offer him a traditional Jewish brachah, an informal prayer that G-d bless the recipient with whatever stated content of the brachah—typically “health,” “success” and the like.

In an informal but powerful spiritual exercise of sorts, the Senator put himself to the side in every way but literally, lowering his head to allow the gentleman to place his hands on his head and heap blessing upon him.

The visitors and staff came away moved from the experience—with Sen. Felder and aide apparently inspired to keep advocating for disability issues, and the Hamaspik team reminded once again why they do what they do.