Friendship Circle and SINAI Schools Team Up in Vocational Training Program

Most students go to school, graduate and get a job. But it’s not always that simple. As we heard in the weeks leading up to the SINAI dinner, some students need extra assistance. Enter SINAI Schools and Friendship Circle of Bergen County. Together, they have expanded SINAI’s vocational training into a practical program to help prepare students for life.

Rabbi Dr. Yisrael Rothwachs, dean of SINAI Schools, told The Jewish Link, “SINAI is blessed to have many partners in the community who open the doors of their businesses and organizations to our students. When our students have the opportunity to have their vocational training placement at Friendship Circle, they are approached with a natural and acute understanding of who they are. Our students walk out of their training at Friendship Circle with a renewed sense of purpose and confidence, which in turn impacts every aspect of their lives, in school, at home and in the community.”

Tuvia Minchenberg is a 19-year-old young man who is a student at Shalem High School at Heichal HaTorah, one of SINAI’s seven partner schools. This year, in addition to his studies, he is taking part in hands-on vocational training at the Friendship Circle of Bergen County’s main office. Each week he goes to the office where he has his own workstation with a desk and a computer where he does data entry for the organization. Friendship Circle has its own database program, and Tuvia has learned how to use the program and performs his tasks admirably. He is very efficient and always leaves with his work completed.

Like other students doing vocational training, he goes with his SINAI job coach who is there to guide him on office etiquette and assist when needed with problem solving. Through this vocational training, Tuvia is learning how to behave in the workplace and be part of a team, and he is learning a transferable skill that will benefit him in a future job. He feels very proud and accomplished doing a task that’s really needed.

Tuvia’s parents, Rabbi Yehuda and Laurie Minchenberg, told The Jewish Link, “Since first grade, SINAI Schools has made it possible for Tuvia to grow and realize his abilities and potential—in Jewish studies, general studies, sports, you name it. Now that Tuvia is getting older, it seems like a natural progression that SINAI is continuing to find opportunities for Tuvia to develop his workplace skills, toward his future independence. And we were delighted to learn that as part of his vocational work, Tuvia was doing data entry for the Friendship Circle, whose services benefit our family and many others in Passaic-Clifton. It is rewarding for him to have these responsibilities, and he is making a genuine contribution to the Friendship Circle’s administrative work. It seems to us like a great example of the multiple benefits to be had when community organizations join forces. A truly beautiful partnership!”

According to Hannah Cowan, M.Ed., Director, SINAI Karasick Shalem High School at Heichal HaTorah, “Everything we do at Shalem High School at Heichal HaTorah is geared towards setting up our students aged 18-21 for life. We have a full academic program for them, but we also have a heavy emphasis on vocational training. Everything we do is with an eye to the future. We are educating them here to be able to function in life once they no longer have the school to support them. They are learning crucial life skills.” Cowan expressed her gratitude to Friendship Circle for their partnership and noted that they are among dozens of businesses and organizations in Bergen County that provide vocational training opportunities for SINAI’s high school students.

Friendship Circle has another SINAI student who is doing his vocational training with them this year. Ruvi is responsible for making sure all of Friendship Circle’s activities have the supplies they need that week. Each Monday he receives an email with a list of all the items and supplies that will be needed that week. Ruvi then plans and figures out where to go to buy these items, and then, with his job coach, he buys the supplies and delivers them to the Friendship Circle office. After he is done, he returns to school knowing that he has helped an amazing organization succeed.

Zeesy Grossbaum, Friendship Circle of Bergen County director, reflected, “This is our second year working with SINAI on vocational training, and it’s been an amazing collaboration. The students have been a great help to us, and at the same time, they’re developing skills that will help them moving forward. Some of the boys have been boys we knew from Friendship Circle events, and some were new to us.”

“We are blessed to have a spectrum of organizations in our extended community that serve children with special needs,” said Rabbi Rothwachs. “There is a synergy that we share with Friendship Circle, complementing one another in our shared mission of maximizing opportunities for children with special needs. Many of our students benefit from their services after school or on the weekends as we work hand-in-hand to help each individual child grow.”

To learn more about the Friendship Circle of Bergen County, visit www.bcfriendship.com

This article was originally published in The Jewish Link.