When you walk into the beautiful two-flat in Rogers Park, you'll
smell the food being prepared.
The three residents love to make cuisine
from all around the world. They research countries and customs, cook the meal,
and maybe even host a few friends. From now until the end of the year, they've
got every dinner and its theme planned out.
The residents are young
adults who are just beginning their transition into adulthood and they couldn't
be happier. This past winter, they hosted an Open House for residents of the
community to see what life is like at The Heichal Home.
The Heichal Home
is a program of Jewish Child & Family Services (JCFS), and participates in
the Chicago Jewish community's Supported Community Living Initiative. The
person-centered community-integrated living arrangement (CILA) for people with
intellectual/developmental disabilities. More than 100 individuals from
prospective families and members of the community attended the Open House for a
guided tour and to get more information about living in a CILA.
House was an incredible experience that enabled us to begin to see just how much
the Jewish community at large supported Heichal and-perhaps more importantly-how
much support Heichal could provide to the community of Jewish persons with
disabilities," said Milt Wakschlag, father of two of the residents at
For parents coming through who have young adults with
disabilities, the event sent a powerful, tangible message.
"When you walk
into the house and you see the bedroom and living room and where the people
living here take their boots offs and where they have their meals, you can
visualize the future," said Jodi Newmark, director of the Supported Community
A typical week for the individuals who live in the
Heichal Home is just that, typical. They go to work for six hours, come home and
prepare a meal, do their chores, and unwind by watching some TV. Maybe they'll
have an activity planned or they'll go to a Yad B' Yad. On the weekends: Shabbat
and a social activity with the residents at Migdal Oaz, another CILA nearby. Or,
maybe they'll just sleep in.
"They are doing what young adults do-they're
going out and they're expressing themselves," Newmark said. "They make choices
that we may or may not agree with, but they're given the opportunity to make
Wakschlag believes the Heichal Home will allow his
children to enjoy the kind of like that we all seek ourselves, which, until
about a year ago, he never thought could happen in a Chicago Jewish context in
"Their life is not an afterthought," he said. "It's
important to my wife and me as their parents because we love to see our children
blossom personally into the best people they can be, largely through the
attentive and loving encouragement of Heichal and Keshet staff."
Hebrew, Heichal means "sanctuary" or "sanctified dwelling." As an acronym,
Heichal stands for "Home for Engaged, Inclusive, Communal, Hilchati Adult
Living." To provide a person-centered approach in its truest form, the vision of
the Heichal Home is supported via an Advisory Group made of up parents,
siblings, community members, and JCFS representatives. This group meets to
discuss goals, issues, wellbeing, community support, and ways to enrich the
daily life and opportunities for the residents.
The JCFS site manager
with special education expertise occupies the top floor apartment. The
overarching goal is to stimulate and support self-determination, growth, and a
sense of community for the residents.
While the three residents quickly
became best friends, the Heichal Home will soon need to set the table for
four-another resident moves in soon.
For more information on CILA's
and the Supported Community Living Initiative, call 855-ASK-JCFS (855-275-5237),
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Child & Family Services (JCFS) is a partner in serving our community
supported by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan
Chris Krapek, for
Jewish Child & Family Services.