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On Sukkos Holiday, Residents Surrounded by Involvement

At Encompassing Sukkos Holiday, Group Home Residents Surrounded by Involvement

Hamaspik Residential Beneficiaries Enjoy Outdoor Meals, Outdoor Activities and Outings

If there’s one thing the fall-time Sukkos holiday has in common with the springtime Passover, it’s over a week of quality family time.

For the family that is the resident and staff body of each Hamaspik Individualized Residential Alternative (IRA), Sukkos is all the more so family time—replete with trips, meals, fun and games and, naturally, ample time spent surrounded by the rustic and simplistic glory of the outdoor sukkah.

The sukkah, Hebrew for hut or shelter, is the Torah mandate to evoke the divinely defended sukkos that sheltered contemporary Jews’ Biblical ancestors.  For eight days, like Passover, families gather around one table and, unlike Passover, under one roof composed of unprocessed natural vegetation, usually bamboo, palm leaves or cedar boughs.

They also spend Sukkos’ four middle “Intermediate” days maximizing family fun—to both pass the time and, more importantly, to discharge the Torah law of “being happy” on the holiday by taking actions that engender happiness and joy.

Here’s how Hamaspik’s IRAs marked “the Season of our Rejoicing.”

With the first of the four Chol Hamoed “Intermediate Days” falling on Saturday, October 11, the action could only begin the next day on Sunday, October 12.  And how it did.

Most Hamaspik group homes joined dozens of families that Sunday morning in converging on Middlebury, Connecticut, home to the Quassy Amusement Park on the shores of Lake Quassapung, for a full day of family fun at the seasonal venue.

From before noon through the early evening, the hundreds of individuals with disabilities and their family members and caregivers thrilled to the dozens of rides of all kinds on the premises, also enjoying a group of drummers strolling about and performing live.

Three educational presentations by a traveling live bear show were also a huge draw.

Chol Hamoed was marked by several group homes’ attendance at live concerts put on for their local Jewish communities.  Hamaspik of Rockland County’s Concord and Fosse IRAs, for example, joined the huge crowd at the joint appearance of superstar Avraham Fried and still-popular Miami Boys Choir, an Orthodox Jewish choral group whose first members are fathers and even grandfathers today.

Food was a big part of the Sukkos proceedings, with high-quality, healthy cuisine churned out by each home’s cook and/or live-in staff couple for all eight days—so much so, reported Fosse Home Manager Mrs. Landau, that the servings prepared by live-in staffer Mrs. Steiner “could have been at a chasunah [wedding]!”

Of course, then there was sitting in the sukkah itself—an experience replete with tradition, primarily involving decorating the walls with colorful posters and such and the roofing with decorative hangings.

At the Grandview Briderheim IRA in Rockland County, thus, Home Manager Joel Schnitzer relates that personal choices took on a new level what with the home’s sukkah getting decorated to the precise specifications of each resident.  “Everyone was involved” in coloring and mounting the sukkah-beautifying accoutrements, as well as participating in all other holiday rites and rituals, he reports.  “Each individual did what he wanted.”

A relatedly similar emphasis on individual preference was in evidence at Monsey’s Wannamaker Briderheim IRA, where two of the home’s highest-functioning individuals were granted their personal wish to attend a Sukkos holiday street festival in upstate Kiryas Joel on Sunday, October 12.  The next day, the entire group home paid a fun-filled visit to the regional FunPlex family fun center.

Throughout the three Chol Hamoed days, the group homes engaged in a plethora of outings both near and far.  Among said outings were visits to the Chuck E. Cheese family fun center, a concert by children’s entertainer Uncle Moishy, the popular Liberty Science Center, apple picking, roller skating, bowling and even simple visits to local parks.

One such visit by Hamaspik of Kings County’s South 9th Shvesterheim IRA had a well-to-do family, also enjoying the park, in pleasant astonishment at how well-care-for the young women appeared—so much so that the family group could not believe that the Hamaspik party was a group-home contingent, not an actual family.

The Shmini Atzeres and Simchas Torah holidays, which respectively comprise the eighth day of Sukkos and its “ninth,” though it’s actually a separate holiday, are marked primarily with jubilant dancing in synagogues as members hold the sacred Torah scrolls.

For most group homes, then, attending—and participating—in such local festivities were the climactic ending of a spectacular Sukkos season.

But besides feeling included in their communities’ life, Hamaspik’s beneficiaries came away from the three back-to-back holidays the same way everyone else did: feeling spiritually supercharged and ready to take on the 11 months ahead.

“They came back very happy,” reports 38th St. Shvesterheim Manager Israel Indig, adding: “We are ready to start a new year!”



Devotion and Dedication 24 Hours a Day

While most of their fellow Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) across the Hamaspik IRA universe were working their holiday shifts, either during daylight hours or overnight, a select group of Hamaspik DSPs worked extra hours this past Sukkos both day and night.

That group of heroes, Arcadian DSPs Joel Fried, Joel Goldberger, Michoel “Chuli” Gottesman and Hillel Spitzer, backed by live-in couple Mr. and Mrs. Sender Lax and Home Manager Shlomo Lebowitz, spent most of their Hamaspik holiday hours not surrounded by their own families at home or even surrounded by residents at the Hamaspik home but in the confines of Montefiore Hospital, where one resident was being treated all Sukkos long due to an unforeseen emergency.

Mr. Spitzer relates that each took at least one 12-hour shift during the three Chol Hamoed weekdays, working “from eight to eight” to give the frightened lad a familiar face and a critical interface between him and hospital doctors, nurses and other caregivers throughout his ordeal.

In putting their own needs and personal preferences, and those of their families, after the needs of a boy with special needs who’d otherwise have no one else, the foursome exemplified the true love, compassion and devotion that is the hallmark of Hamaspik.