In conversation with Sharon Herenstein, the manager of Jus by Julie on Queen Anne Road in Teaneck, it becomes evident immediately that among her top priorities are community and inclusion. While working for more than two years as a shadow for a local youngster at a yeshiva elementary school and teaching special education for six years, Herenstein developed an understanding and sensitivity to people with special needs. She feels there is no limit to how much they can achieve if given opportunities in the mainstream world. This experience motivated her to pursue courses and certification in special education.
Approximately two years ago, Jus by Julie opened a branch in Teaneck. Part of a franchise of nine stores in the New York and New Jersey area, Jus by Julie was established by Julie Maleh of Brooklyn as an eatery with a focus on healthy food. Featuring gluten-free dishes, pizza crusts made from spelt and cauliflower, salads, acai bowls and low-fat pastries, Jus is a lunch favorite for local high school students and residents alike. Intrigued by the concept of a healthy kosher food establishment, Herenstein came aboard as a manager.
As a Teaneck resident, Herenstein knew most of her customers from the neighborhood. During a conversation with Teaneck mom Sara Olshin, Herenstein offered a volunteering opportunity to Olshin’s son Meir at the store for several hours a week. The offer thrilled Olshin as Meir, 25, has special needs and is always looking for opportunities to become involved. Meir attends JUF NJ. His daytime hours are spent in the adult day services program. Much of his time is spent volunteering in the community or working on building vocational skills. His evenings are spent with Yachad New Jersey at the Mendel Balk Yachad Center, Yachad’s social and recreational program. Meir also utilizes his computer skills from JUF NJ’s computer training center to volunteer for the OU’s Teach NJ.
Currently, Meir spends several hours on Mondays and Wednesdays at Jus by Julie. His responsibilities include conveying Uber orders recorded on a tablet to the staff at the store and then bringing the completed orders out to the Uber vehicle. He is also involved in taking inventory of the store’s products. Watching Meir record the orders with confidence and comfort within the friendly ambience of the eatery made it clear that Herenstein was on target with her offer to invite the young man to Jus.
Tova, 25, who is also a participant of Yachad/JUF NJ who also volunteers through the adult day services program at Jus by Julie, attends the day program at Yachad in Teaneck. On Tuesdays she volunteers at the TVAC office on Windsor Road and on Thursdays, she assists at a daycare facility. She also helps out at her father’s dental practice, where she is involved in the billing process. Since September, Tova also spends several hours on Mondays and Wednesdays at Jus by Julie, where she works alongside Meir in filling Uber orders. When asked how she enjoys the time she spends at the eatery, she responded with a wide smile, “The people are sweet, and the food is sweet.” This sentiment was echoed by job counselor Carin Tassler, who has been with Yachad/JUF NJ for seven years. She can often be found coaching participants at their off-site jobs or volunteer placements. “It is extremely gratifying to see our students so capably and happily carrying out their responsibilities.”
As part of his functional academic math curriculum, Nathaniel Goldman-Brown, 17, a student at SINAI’s Karasick Shalem High School at TABC, is responsible for filling out and picking up lunch orders for individuals within TABC from various establishments in Teaneck. Accompanied by his teacher Danielle Teitelbaum, he likes seeing Herenstein on his stops at Jus by Julie for his Monday pickups.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Chany, a student from SINAI Karasick Shalem High School at Ma’ayanot, takes orders and works with customers at Jus by Julie as part of her SINAI work-study. The patrons of the store constantly report their satisfaction with the service they receive from the student, to the delight of Herenstein and her staff.
Herenstein is passionate about the benefits of including SINAI and Yachad participants in businesses and educational facilities around town. By providing these opportunities, entrepreneurs afford participants learning experiences, boosting their confidence and self-esteem. At the same time, customers develop an appreciation and respect for individuals with special needs whom they see as contributing members of the community.
To learn more about Yachad JUF NJ programs go to NJYachad@ou.org. To learn more about SINAI go to http://www.sinaischools.org. To partner with Herenstein, please call or text 201-359-5245.
To see this article as it appeared originally in The Jewish Link, click here. Photo courtesy Yachad