JARC Hillel

The program begins in December and runs through May every year, with Hillel students partnering with the group homes.

Hillel Day School and JARC are wrapping up another successful year of their outreach program, where Hillel seventh-grade students meet and connect with people JARC serves once a month. The program has been going strong for more than 30 years now, with the pandemic only serving as a slight detour from the norm. 

The program begins in December and runs through May every year, with Hillel students partnering with the group homes. 

“The kids really form a relationship, friendship and connection with the people in that home as we progress through the year,” said Leslie Baron, program coordinator at Hillel Day School. 

The first event of the program is a bingo night, typically taking place at Hillel. Other monthly events include the kids going directly to the JARC homes for activities.

“In the women’s home, they love to have manicures or bake cookies; in the men’s home, they like to play Nintendo Wii games and also to bake,” said Baron, who’s been involved with the program for 18 years. 

One of the monthly events also includes a bowling event at Langan’s Nor-west Lanes, which was the only event they couldn’t make happen this year. 

Hillel students and JARC residents together pre-pandemic.
Hillel students and JARC residents together pre-pandemic.

With the pandemic, everything in the program has been done virtually, with Hillel kids and JARC clients coming together on Zoom. Not being able to mingle for in-person activities, the two sides have had to be creative, participating in virtual charades, Pictionary and talent shows.

“For our kids, it’s a lot about empathy, inclusiveness and really appreciating a person for who they are,” Baron said.

Andy Tukel, a former Hillel student and Hillel/JARC program participant, said his time in the program motivated him to further delve into volunteerism.

“I thought it was a really good experience; you can see how happy you make everyone just by participating and having fun,” Tukel said. 

“I think it’s really important because it teaches the Hillel kids compassion and patience,” Tukel added. “I got to see how something that may seem so easy and small like running a bingo event or playing board games can have such a big impact.” 

JARC CEO Shaindle Braunstein has had similar experiences as Baron and Tukel.

“What we found — beyond it being new faces for our people to meet or another activity — is we’ve really been able to open the eyes of the students to what it means to be a person with a disability and really understand in real life what inclusion means,” Braunstein said.

We are all people, we all have the right to be loved and included and engaged, and I think the teens are demonstrating this. They’re not coming in and working for persons served by JARC, they’re bonding and connecting with them on a person-to-person level.” 

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