Empowering our children

Foresight. Vision. Strategy. Whatever led to the decision, it was nothing short of brilliant. It will pay dividends in the short run by providing benefits to consumers, and it will bring a return on investment in the long run by developing a broader base of financial supporters and leadership. Brilliant.

This past Sunday night, Jawonio (Rockland’s premiere provider of lifespan services for those with developmental disabilities) held its annual gala at the Paramount Country Club in New City, New York. This relatively pricey, black-tie optional, politician-studded fundraising event has been held for decades and has catered traditionally to a pretty high-end crowd to benefit the organization.


Jawonio honors

This year, Jawonio got creative. The organization chose to honor the Orangetown Jewish Center Youth. 25 of our finest kids got dressed up, purchased tickets at a reduced price of $36, rubbed elbows with the big shots, and danced the night away like few at this event had ever seen. Oh yeah, Rabbi Drill, our youth director Sharon Rappaport, our youth chair Mitch Brill, our USY division director Bruce Varon and I were there to make sure the kids behaved, to share a few words, to shep a bit of naches, and to shed a few tears as well!


Over the years our youth group has studied the Jewish value that every person is created b’tzelem Elohim, in God’s image. Their learning has led to their communal commitment to serve those of varying abilities by visiting group homes, running carnivals, holding bowl-a-thons and hosting social gatherings. Their actions have helped them individually conquer fears, break down barriers, increase sensitivity, and generate love for all of God’s creations.


Jawonio’s leaders took a risk. By subsidizing the attendance of these youth, and by choosing to honor a group that doesn’t make a large financial commitment to its bottom line, Jawonio chose to inspire. Jawonio inspired our kids by helping them see themselves as valued and contributing members of society who can make a difference; Jawonio inspired its own supporters by showing how its mission is changing the world for the better, both for its consumers and for the larger community; Jawonio reminded us all that our children are our future, deserving of recognition for their contributions and investment in their leadership development. That’s what I call vision!

Mazal tov to our community, to our Naaseh/USY program for empowering our youth to make a difference, to our kids who choose to be a part of holy work, and to Jawonio for helping us see the image of God in every person.

Rabbi Craig Scheff

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