COC, J partner to house program for those with developmental disabilities

Kendall, with his advocate Barb Otrovsky, made a boat that won a recent Taglit regatta. (Courtesy Congregation Or Chadash)

Khylie Gardner, communications director at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, says that when the Jewish community comes together, “something amazing happens. Our collective values guide us to uplift one another, helping us to create relationships that are deeply cherished and that work for the good of our entire community and beyond.”

That’s why, when the leadership of the J made the decision to resume service after a temporary pandemic closure, they knew they would need a partner to make reopening a reality. The J typically serves over 40 young adults with various cognitive and physical disabilities as part of its Taglit Day Program, and many of these young adults fall into the high-risk category for COVID-19 patients. Tending to the most vulnerable among its community needed to be the J’s highest priority.

In an effort to keep Taglit participants and their families safe and healthy, the J is working with Congregation Or Chadash to provide a temporary off-site home for the program. Many of the congregation’s activities, such as religious school, are not active during the summer months, so the facility provides the perfect setting for Taglit participants to come together in a safe and nourishing environment.

Taglit participants are placed in self-contained peer pods, where chances for interaction between groups is significantly reduced. Other health and safety precautions include taking the temperatures of all participants and staff before entering the facility, requiring staff to wear masks at all times, sanitizing high-touch areas throughout the day, and deep-cleaning the full facility each night.

“Or Chadash has been an incredible partner,” says Emily Malin, director of special needs services at the J. “We are so grateful to them for opening their doors to our community, and working with us to make this a great summer for everyone.”

The move is in line with the congregation’s deeply held values.

“In Jewish tradition, we often translate the concept of kedusha as holiness,” says Or Chadash’s Jim Liebeskind, “but a deeper understanding of kedusha teaches that we experience holiness on the deepest level when we look at every individual, situation, and moment as unique. This concept extends into every area of our lives: Each of us is holy – not only because we are created in God’s image but also because our own experience is different, sacred, and set apart.

“Some program areas (like worship and study) can be effectively and powerfully experienced online. Others (like childcare) cannot. Consequently, decisions that are made in one area of our organization may not apply to others. We are working hard to find the holiness and uniqueness in every situation and respond as best we can under the circumstances.”

Taglit currently is not permitting visitors on site. To learn more about the Taglit program, contact Malin at emalin@tucsonjcc.org. For questions about Or Chadash, contact Liebeskind at facilities@octucson.com.