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Hundreds gather to pay tribute to Hand in Hand volunteers
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Hundreds gather to pay tribute to Hand in Hand volunteers

Accepting their Hand in Hand award from Rabbi Laibel Schapiro, far right, are, from left, Aidan, Harper, Ivy, and Russell Herman.
Accepting their Hand in Hand award from Rabbi Laibel Schapiro, far right, are, from left, Aidan, Harper, Ivy, and Russell Herman.

PERFORM MIRACLES, the gala tribute dinner for Hand in Hand — a community program that supports Jewish children with special needs and their families — drew 375 guests to the Two River Theater in Red Bank on June 17.

The program, a project of Chabad of the Shore in Long Branch, offers Sunday activities; bar and bat mitzvah training; and the Teen Volunteer Club, through which some 85 participants each week visit a child with special needs to help with homework, play games, and provide close friendships.

Mentalist Oz Pearlman entertained, and Hand in Hand parents, honorees, and teen volunteers addressed the crowd.

Hand in Hand director Rabbi Laibel Schapiro thanked honorees Russell and Ivy Herman. “Every child, boy or girl, deserves to be educated in their own unique way, with an approach that is geared for them,” the rabbi said. “This is what Judaism is all about; this is what Hand in Hand is all about.”

Russell Herman praised Hand in Hand, where two of his children are teen volunteers. “In this program, it’s often the givers who receive and the receivers who give,” he said. “Hand in Hand creates a virtuous circle for all involved.”

“We weren’t really sure if our daughter could have a bat mitzvah. It was more of a dream,” said parent Adria Glass. “Hand in Hand was integral in helping to make that dream a reality.”

“Hand in Hand provides so much support, so much love, so many activities for our son,” said Sara Weiss, the mother of a child with speech and developmental disorders. 

Stacey Consiglio, the mother of a Hand in Hand child, spoke of the friendships her son now has with his volunteers. “For 10 years, we navigated through the challenges that arose with having a child with learning disabilities and differences,” she said. “Thanks to the Hand in Hand volunteers, that certainly has changed.” 

Consiglio described a recent Hand in Hand rock-climbing outing. When her son Aiden was too afraid to climb, his teen volunteer whispered to him that they would climb together. “And that’s exactly what they did,” she said. “They climbed that wall side by side, heart by heart, Hand in Hand.”

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