Rose Herschman and David Stahl

What is Shelanu/Supper Club and How Does it Benefit Our Community?

By Nick Primavera, M.S., MBA, Coordinator of WJCS Shelanu

WJCS “Shelanu” (Ours), is a membership community for young adults 18 years and older who are on the autism spectrum. We offer weekly social programming to the Westchester Community and surrounding areas. Shelanu creates a home away from home, utilizing Jewish values and practices where members can come together to share, learn, and grow, both socially and professionally, in a relaxed setting that feels comfortable and safe. All are welcome to join, regardless of religion.

Shelanu offers a wide array of recreational, vocational, and cultural programming. From celebrating Thanksgiving and Jewish holidays together, enjoying dinners at restaurants, pizza-making classes from a master chef, attending ball games, going to the movies, bowling, playing miniature golf, and visiting the art studio of one of our very own talented artist members, Shelanu participants enjoy fun, informal activities that evoke lots of smiles, laughter, and good feelings, both about themselves and each other. Shelanu eases the social isolation that many people who are on the spectrum experience and provides opportunities to improve communication skills, build confidence, and create long-lasting connections and friendships.

Our staff, program coordinator, group leaders, and volunteers work with members to develop this robust schedule of programming that offers a rich array of events in which to participate. All are welcome to join, regardless of religion. WJCS’ social work staff are on hand to address the emotional and social needs of our young adults, as well as the concerns of their parents and caregivers.

Participants in Shelanu cultivate crucial life skills and benefit from our vocational training program. This program provides them with job training, technical skills, problem-solving abilities, and more, all of which contribute to their success. They have grown significantly, developing valuable skills and overcoming various barriers and anxieties that previously hindered their progress, thereby paving the way for their continued growth and achievement.

Birthdays take on a special dimension in our community. Each passing year becomes an opportunity not only to mark the passage of time but to also commemorate individuality and shared experiences. Accomplishments, big and small, are met with applause and admiration. Whether it is a special project, job promotion, or personal triumph, the community rallies around its members with genuine enthusiasm and praise.

Over and over, we have seen how Shelanu helps members who are on the spectrum overcome many of their anxieties, fears, and obstacles through their involvement in this unique social program. Our vibrant festivities, celebrating traditions and milestones, and communal joy at gatherings foster a sense of self-worth that is so vitally important to individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities, including autism. It helps to highlight their unique strengths and capabilities, challenging societal misconceptions and promoting inclusivity. Recognizing their achievements also provides motivation for continued personal growth and development. Additionally, these celebrations can strengthen community bonds and support networks, creating a more encouraging and understanding environment.

“Last night’s event brought tears to my eyes more than once. It was so beautiful.”

“The enamoring expressions of gratitude and, of course, the delightful treats added to the magic of the day. Thank you once again for providing the opportunity for the ladies and staff, we truly appreciate you, and we look forward to more memorable events.”

It is comments like these, and there are so many of them, in which Shelanu participants express how much the program means to them that is our greatest reward.

Shelanu is designed to increase the independence and inclusion of young adults on the spectrum in the Jewish and broader communities. Having a supportive community that recognizes them and makes them feel valued is uplifting to our members and to us, the staff.

To learn more about Shelanu, contact Nick Primavera, MS, MBA, Program Coordinator (914) 761-0600 x3332 or 914-848-8132; nprimavera@wjcs.com. To learn more about Westchester Jewish Community Services, go to www.wjcs.com.