Shalom Group Helps Developmentally Disabled Adults

by Amy Pressman, JFS Director of Marketing

Serving developmentally disabled Jewish adults, the Jewish Family Service of Greater New Haven’s Shalom Group offers Jewish educational, holiday, cultural and other social events for people to learn more about Judaism, feel connected to it and develop social relationships with their peers. Shalom Group also helps participants gain further independence and life skills.

Rachel Scolnic Dobin, MSW, leads the Shalom Group. She schedules and coordinates events that are meaningful to participants in the community. According to Scolnic Dobin, “it’s a safe, fulfilling place to see friends and to celebrate holidays.” Holiday celebrations include Passover seders, and gatherings for Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah and Sukkot.

Shalom Group events are not just held at JFS. The JCC has been the site for many Shalom Group events as well. The group has participated in Zumba classes, movie and pizza nights and the Grill ‘N Chill events at the JCC.

Temple Beth Tikvah, Temple Beth Shalom, Orchard Street Synagogue and Beth El-Keser Israel have also been recent Shalom Group venues, particularly for Shabbat celebrations. Shalom Group participants have also enjoyed Temple Emanuel’s Shabbat Under the Stars.

Prior to her work at JFS, Scolnic Dobin worked at a residence for people with developmental or mental health disabilities. Working with this population of individuals, including with the Shalom Group, has been life changing for her. Rich has been attending Shalom Group events since the group’s inception, roughly 30 years ago. He attends both holiday celebrations and social events, such as Shalom Group bowling parties.

According to Heni Schwartz, a long-time social worker with JFS, “people come together in ways they can’t do anywhere else. They make ongoing connections. People are with their peers, where they can be Jewish in an atmosphere of acceptance.”

JFS’s CEO/Executive Director Jonathan Garfinkle adds, “The Shalom Group promotes community inclusivity and enhances the lives of these individuals as well as the whole community.”

One community organization that benefits from the Shalom Group is the Chapel Haven School. Located in New Haven, close to JFS, Chapel Haven has both residency and non-resident community programs and services for developmentally disabled adults of all faiths and backgrounds.

Harriet, a parent whose son lives at Chapel Haven and participates in Shalom Group events, is grateful for the group and the JFS staff members involved with the program.

JFS also provides Shalom Group participants with supportive group services, including social skills, life skills and problem-solving skills groups. JFS also offers vocational services. Group members have also volunteered at JFS, helping in its Food Pantry & Nutritional Health Center and assembling marketing and fundraising mailings.

The next Shalom Group event will be a bowling night on Jan. 11. The JFS Shalom Group is always looking for new participants. For more information, contact Rachel Scolnic Dobin at (203) 389-5599 x109 or rsdobin@jfsnh.org. 

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