By Katie Secret
The Maryland Hillel introduced a new way to connect Jewish students with the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes this February. Students gathered at the center to exercise with and get to know individuals with disabilities.
The students and group home members practiced Zumba at Hillel on Feb. 28. Those involved in planning and organizing the event said that the night was an overall success, with a good amount of both students and residents in attendance.
Tammy Bronstein, one of the event’s administrators, said the goal of the event was to create a fun night to allow the adults from JFGH and university students to interact with one another.
According to the group’s website, JFGH is a non-profit organization “dedicated to enhancing the independence, dignity, choice, and community inclusion of individuals with disabilities, regardless of faith or creed.”
Through this event, Hillel worked to help JFGH towards their mission of giving members an opportunity to “experience Jewish life.”
Kayla Adler, one of the night’s planners, said the event facilitated interaction between the group home members and students and was generally a fun atmosphere for everyone.
In fact, Kaylin Bugos, the night’s Zumba instructor, said the night was such a great time that she wouldn’t be surprised if Hillel put on a similar event soon.
“It turned into more of a dance party than anything else, which is exactly what I hoped would happen,” Bugos said. “We had a great mix of students and adults from group homes.”
Adler agreed with Bugos and added that both the JFGH residents and students appeared to be having a lot of fun.
Hillel has been organizing events with outside Jewish organizations for over a year, Adler said, because the university does not have many options for students to participate in special needs service work.
“We think that it’s a great opportunity for the homes to get college experience and an opportunity for students who want to work with individuals with special needs to participate in,” Adler said.
According to both the event’s planners and Kenny Kalman, who commented on the event’s Facebook page, similar nights should be created in the future.
“I look forward to continuing to work with you all to work with JFGH on making them included in the Jewish community,” Kalman said.
Adler said the planners hope to have two more events with JFGH this semester with the same residents that came to Zumba.
“We really enjoy having events with Jewish Group Homes and the residents enjoy coming here, so it was just a great way for us all to hang out,” Adler said.