A bat mitzvah celebration brought Rabbi Shay Schachter, leader of Young Israel of Woodmere, to the Friendship Circle LifeTown in Livingston, NJ. The experience had such a profound impact that a few months later, he brought three generations of his family, including his parents, Rabbi Hershel and Shoshanah Schachter, back for a tour. They spent more than two hours at the facility, exploring everything from music to the kitchen, from the LifeTown Shoppes and the playground to the art room.
The elder Rabbi Schachter, a halachic advisor at the Orthodox Union and dean of the Rabbi Elchanan Isaac Theological Seminary at Yeshiva University, was visibly moved during the visit.
“We are still talking and telling people about our visit to LifeTown and how impressed we were with the entire set up and all the work that is being done,” Rabbi Hershel Schachter noted after his visit.
Welcoming Rabbi Schachter and his family were Rabbi Mendel Herson, Associate Dean of the Rabbinical College of America, and Toba and Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum, the founders of Friendship Circle and LifeTown in Livingston.
Rabbi Grossbaum shared the background of how Friendship Circle and LifeTown came into existence, inspired by the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory. Well ahead of his time, the Rebbe advocated for inclusion and unlimited opportunities for those with special abilities.
Being a musical family, the Schachters were particularly taken with the infusion of music throughout the building, calling it “the expression of the deepest part of one’s soul.”
“Lifetown makes an accommodation for children of all types and allows them to enjoy a real-life experience while learning skills that they can use outside of LifeTown as well.” said Rabbi Shay Schachter. “How many would otherwise know how to navigate a supermarket, nail salon or speak with the teller at the local bank?”
The younger Rabbi Schachter shared that he continues to draw inspiration from what he called the “noble” work of LifeTown, even as he moves forward confronting other local and global issues, seeking ways to provide for those in need.
“It was incredible to host the Schachter family and to see that they care so passionately about the impact on children, families, teens, and volunteers,” said Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum. “Knowing that our work can inspire them to recommit to helping others just underscores the impact we can all have on one another.”