The JCC of Greater New Haven is now partnering with Chapel Haven Schleifer Center, an award-winning, nationally accredited school and transition program for adults with disabilities in New Haven, to open up their facilities and programming to people of all abilities in the Greater New Haven community.
JCC Executive Director Scott Cohen said the organization has been thinking of ways to be more welcoming to children and adults with disabilities. Cohen said the staff has always been well intentioned and thoughtful when it comes to making people of all ages and abilities feel welcome when they come to the JCC, but now, he said they are ready to professionalize their practice.
Currently, a small group of adults from Chapel Haven visits the JCC each week to participate in a variety of supervised activities including swimming, basketball and using the Rothberg Family Climbing Wall.
Beginning in January, all Chapel Haven students are becoming JCC memberships so they can use the pool, which they don’t have at Chapel Haven, and participate in the many different activities that the JCC offers. The JCC will also be working to create additional programming for Chapel Haven that utilizes the MakerSpace and the climbing wall.
Another group from Chapel Haven will also begin working with job coaches to explore vocational opportunities at the JCC. Danielle Chiaraluce the leader of the vocational programming at Chapel Haven, will be involved in training the JCC staff. On January 3, Cohen said staff from the JCC and the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven toured Chapel Haven and met with staff and residents to learn how to become “the best hosts we can be.” Cohen said JCC President Scott Hurwitz was instrumental in developing the new partnership between the JCC and Chapel Haven. “He met a Chapel Haven parent at an event,” Cohen explained. “And then he went to Chapel Haven and met with the executive team there and asked what we could do together.”
The JCC has also created a committee of laypeople from the community, including a number of enthusiastic Chapel Haven parents who live outside the area who want a warm and welcoming local Jewish community like the JCC for their children to belong to. Additionally, the JCC is hiring a consultant to survey the community and create focus groups to determine what’s currently being done to address people of all abilities and where the gaps are and what new programs can be created, Cohen said.
Cohen and Hurwitz both look at the JCC of Manhattan’s inclusive, accepting and innovative programming as inspiration for how the JCC of Greater New Haven’s programs could develop. Cohen said Allison Kleinman, the Director of Special Needs Programming at the JCC of Manhattan, is part of the JCC of Greater New Haven’s new committee. “We want to make sure we get it right and Allison is a tremendous resource who is willing to give of her time,” he stressed. Cohen sees the new partnership with the Chapel Haven community as just the beginning of the drive toward more inclusive programs at the JCC. “We want to see what we can do together,” he said. “We want the JCC to be open to everyone.”
By Jeannette Brodeur