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First Shabbaton for Jews with disabilities in Omaha

Jewish Press of Omaha
OMAHA, Feb. 25 (JTA) — Jewish individuals with disabilities will have their first opportunity of a Shabbaton experience, thanks to a modified Shabbaton scheduled for this weekend by Yachad. Yachad, which means “together” in Hebrew, welcomes any Jewish individual with a disability, regardless of synagogue affiliation, said Linda Novak, the group’s adviser. The Shabbaton will begin Friday evening in the social hall of Beth Israel Synagogue, where current and prospective Yachad members — many with their parents — will meet for a short service followed by Shabbat dinner. Members of the group will meet again at Beth Israel the next morning to participate in Shabbat services and share a Kiddush luncheon. Shabbat afternoon activities include story reading, discussion about the forthcoming Purim holiday and abbreviated Torah study. Novak said overnight accommodations in homes near Beth Israel have been made available for Shabbaton participants who need to be in walking distance of the synagogue. High-school-age members of the Omaha Chapter, National Conference of Synagogue Youth, will help at the Shabbaton. They will read stories, lead discussions and offer companionship to Yachad members. Rabbi Allan Gonsher, NCSY adviser and Yachad coordinator, was instrumental in planning the Shabbaton. “At a Shabbaton, young people meet new Jewish friends and enjoy a sense of independence in a spiritual atmosphere free of the distractions of everyday life,” Gonsher said. “We recognize that many Yachad members are not able to stay away from home overnight,” he said, “so, we’re starting our activities on Friday night and resuming again on Saturday. The overall experience will come as close as possible to a standard Shabbaton.” Novak said Yachad activities are aimed at helping Jewish individuals with disabilities enhance their social skills, identify with Judaism and learn about Jewish customs.