L.A. Yachad celebrates its accomplishments in uniting special needs Jewish communities

On May 29, Los Angeles Yachad, a program of the Orthodox Union’s National Jewish Council for Disabilities, dimmed the lights and rolled out the red carpet for its second annual “Yachad Oscars” ceremony. Built upon the message of inclusion, Yachad works to unite the local special-needs community with the broader Jewish community through social gatherings and Jewish celebrations. Its mission, according to Assistant Director Ian Lurie, is to “open the eyes of the world to the idea that everyone belongs.”

Much of the evening was dedicated to the achievements of Director Perri Tabak, who will be leaving after 10 years with the organization and who was lauded at the event by Yachad’s national director, Jeffrey Lichtman.

Through Yachad, elementary, middle and high-school students are given opportunities to meet with individuals with special needs, as could be seen through photo montages of Shabbatons, a mock seder and other highlights from throughout the year.

“There are two main factors to making inclusion successful: education and will,” Lurie said. This year’s programs included sensitivity training for high-school participants, and in February, which was North American Inclusion Month, Yachad hosted a screening of “King Gimp” that drew more than 100 people.

Throughout the evening, awards were presented and received by all Yachad participants and members for a variety of talents, ranging from Best Animators of the Year to Everybody’s Best Friend.

Lurie will assume the role of director in September. “The future of inclusion is incredibly bright due to the efforts of Yachad in L.A. and across North America,” he said, adding that his biggest goal “is to have enough people involved in Yachad next year that the Yachad Oscars will be held in the Kodak Theatre, like the Oscars themselves.”