Yachad gift shop in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: COURTESY NETANEL ARIEL)
A shop that exclusively hires people with disabilities opened on Jerusalem’s Anglo-friendly Emek Refaim Street last week.
Brooklyn-based Yachad Gifts celebrated the official opening last Sunday of a store it hopes will help integrate Israel’s disabled English-speaking immigrants into the larger community.
Yoel Sterman, CEO of Yachad Israel, told The Jerusalem Post
that the store was not opened just to make work for disabled Anglos, but to live up to the company’s name, “yachad
,” which means “together.”
“Everything we do is centered on inclusion,” Sterman said. “We are not looking at their disabilities, we are looking at their abilities, what they can do. So it is important to open this store because it includes all of us.”
Yachad Gifts has been integrating people with disabilities into the workforce with their gift-basket production and sales facilities in New York City since 1983.
The Emek Refaim location is being used as a vocational training center, and will later serve its intended purpose as a fully functional gift shop operated by Anglos with disabilities.
The location is also serving as the new headquarters of Yachad Israel.
The company opened a branch in Jerusalem in 2012, and has been serving dozens of people with disabilities from their current workspace in the Orthodox Union Center.
The store is in its recruitment phase, and currently has 10 people who have already begun their training.
At Yachad, training is not taken lightly. In fact, employees are expected to train five days a week from three months up to one year, depending on the worker’s abilities.
Yachad will offer a combination of training and work in various aspects of the operation, ranging from assembling gift baskets to basic office work.
The company is reaching out to Anglos with a range of mental and physical disabilities, relying on word of mouth and a small advertising campaign to bring potential employees to the store.
After the initial stage, Sterman said, “We are happy to take as many people as we can, the more the merrier.”
Sterman is eager to begin this new chapter in Yachad’s story. He explained the significance of the current endeavor: “Creating appropriate training and employment opportunities enables people with special needs to mainstream into the community completely and to make a respectable living. Customers from around the country and around the world hold this project in high regard, and enjoy purchasing gifts and gift packages created by people with special needs.”