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Published on August 17th, 2017 | by WMJledger


Springfield J to Celebrate 10 Years of Kehillah


GREATER SPRINGFIELD – Anne DeForge was raised on a farm in Parish, N.Y., with her sisters, Nicole, Shawnee, and Jane, surrounded by loving parents as well as horses, a donkey, goats, and dogs. Though deceased, the love Bruce and Glenda DeForge instilled in their daughters shines through on the face of Anne, a 29-year-old woman with special needs.

Anne came to Springfield in 2016 to visit her sister Nicole. “I don’t want to go back!” was her joyful reaction.

Grateful to have her sister with her, Nicole entered a new world of finding programs and services to assist Anne. They were put in touch with local resources, including Jericho, Special Olympics, and the Springfield JCC’s Kehillah program.

Happy campers at Kehillah’s Inclusion Camp this summer at the Springfield J.

Now Anne has a daily schedule of activities, beginning with home schooling in the morning, and evening activities so plentiful, they overlap. These include Kehillah’s adult social group and activities like bowling, basketball, and cooking.  Anne also participates in Camp Kehillah, which offers an adult community-based camp and outings to places such as Mystic Aquarium and the Connecticut Science Museum.

“Through social group, Anne made several friends and is on the phone with them almost every night,” her sister Nicole said.

Bethany Young is the director of Kehillah.

“Anne met a group of young adults who have known each other for years and became an instant friend to all of them,” Young says. “She has been a wonderful addition to our Kehillah family. I think Anne’s compassionate nature speaks volumes to the love and support that Nicole has shown since moving her to Massachusetts.”

On Wednesday, Sept. 13, the Springfield J will host “CHEERS TO 10 Years!” a celebration of the growth of Kehillah, one of the area’s leading adaptive and inclusive programs.

The 5:30 p.m. event will include cocktails, live music by the Berkshire Hills Music Academy, prizes, auction items, and hors d’oeuvres and will be held in the Mass Mutual Room at Max’s Tavern in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield.

“In 2007 we simply offered a music group, one week of camp, and a handful of swim lessons,” Young explains. “Over the last ten years the department has become a model for inclusion. Our handful of adaptive aquatic lessons have turned into over 1,800 individual lessons taught this past year. The one week of camp has turned into eight and the initial music group is now accompanied by ten other groups, weekly.”

In addition to incorporating inclusion in all aspects of the J, Kehillah has also added friendship programs like Fitness Buddies, an annual New Year’s Eve’s Eve Dance and has become a site for the national ReelAbilities Disabilities Film Festival. The Springfield JCC’s Best Buddies chapter is the only non-school affiliated chapter in the state of Massachusetts. Moreover, the J has made an intentional, active commitment to create a welcoming environment – including making its award-winning fully inclusive summer camp.

“Kehillah has indeed created a special community within the J that we all appreciate and enjoy.  What I most value however, is seeing the developing relationships, growth and positive changes achieved by so many of our participants,” said Michael Paysnick, executive director at the J.

To learn more about Kehillah @ the J and “CHEERS to 10 Years!” visit, or contact Bethany Young at or (413) 739-4715.

CAP: Nicole DeForge and her sister, Anne, an active member of Kehillah’s adult social group.

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