Chasidic Young Men Find Appreciation and Acceptance at Upscale Boro Park Drop in Center
Wednesday 1st of March 2017 08:14:05 AM
It is a pattern that has manifested itself time and time again in recent years.
Chasidish young men who don’t fit the conventional mold find themselves at a crossroads, trying to find a place where they belong. All too often they take to the streets, roaming aimlessly throughout the day and night and hanging out on street corners. At best, they become restless because of their lack of productivity, but many find themselves falling prey to substances and activities that can have devastating consequences.
Having spent many years working with at risk boys from the Chasidish community, Ozer Babad knew all too well the dangers these young adults were facing and understood that what they needed most was guidance and compassion. While some simply needed a kind word and a friendly pat on the back, others were completely disenfranchised by the Chasidish lifestyle, often cutting all ties to Yiddishkeit. Even more alarming, many sought solace in drugs and alcohol, oftentimes with tragic results.
Three years ago, Babad joined forces with the Jewish Heritage Center which has been heavily involved in outreach for more than three decades and has touched the lives of tens of thousands of individuals. Having realized that there was a tremendous need for “inreach” in the Chasidish community where many young adults were slipping through the cracks, the Jewish Heritage Center created a new division to address this issue and hired Babad to serve as its director. He soon found himself hosting dozens of boys in restaurants and even in his own dining room but quickly realized that a more permanent location was needed and one year ago 1225, a contemporary drop in center for Chasidish young men that takes its name from its street address, was born.
“After a long search we found an ideal 3,000 square foot location in the heart of Boro Park on the second floor of a building on 39th Street,” said Babad. “The guys designed the logo themselves and got to work right away renovating the place which is very classy and has the feel of a trendy South Williamsburg lounge. Guys walk in and, right away, they feel at home.”
In addition to enjoying a fresh, hot meal, young men who come to 1225 have plenty to do. The drop in center boasts a television lounge, a gym, a “chill” room, a pool table, a piano, a keyboard, a guitar and a computer lounge, available for either business or pleasure. 1225
has an upscale vibe, validating visitors from the moment they walk in, letting them know that they are valued and important guests who are welcomed with open arms.
“We don’t judge them by the way they look when they walk in, or by the way they act or dress,” said Babad. “We take them in wholeheartedly because they are neshamos that need and deserve love and caring.”
More than just a great place to come and relax, 1225 also offers healthy recreational outlets and valuable opportunities for self improvement. GED classes and EMT training provide visitors to the drop in center with a chance to supplement their often meager secular education and provide them with life skills that can translate into greater job opportunities and enhanced productivity. Over the past year alone many young men have found steady jobs through 1225’s job placement services, while numerous others have availed themselves of its yeshiva placement services, enrolling in yeshivos both locally and in Israel.
Others who come to the drop in center may be facing challenges that require professional intervention and 1225 refers those individuals for therapy and counseling as needed. In some instances, Babad also counsels parents, referring them to appropriate professionals when necessary.
But the real proof is in the numbers. Rabbi Avraham Portnoy, associate director of the Jewish Heritage Center, estimated that on a typical night there are over 50 young men at 1225, with approximately 200 individuals taking advantage of the beautiful facilities over the past twelve months. More comprehensive services are in the works for 1225 to meet the needs of even more young men from the Chasidish community and Rabbi Portnoy states “we are in the process of hiring a clinical director to provide a greater array of, and more comprehensive services”. Additionally, plans are already in the works to expand 1225’s offerings and to open a girls’ division in the near future.
“It is so important that in addition to being a nice, warm, welcoming place where these boys feel safe, and can come and hang out, we also have services that provide them with opportunities to grow through concrete accomplishments that help them feel good about themselves” observed Rabbi Portnoy.
1225 has already seen numerous success stories, including one young man who completed a GED program and is looking ahead to a career in mechanical engineering and another who took 1225’s EMT class and used those skills to save the life of a stranger. For Babad, nothing is sweeter than to see one of his boys walking down to the chupah, knowing that he has worked hard to get his life back on track and is embarking on a productive, successful and healthy life in mainstream society as a married man.
More than just a drop in center, 1225 creates permanent bonds between the many young men who pass through its doors nightly, noted Babad.
“This place is the family that creates family,” said Babad. “These boys become one because they feel like they are connected to something that is greater than any one of them. That sense of being part of a larger whole is life changing for them and has helped them grow and achieve far beyond their highest expectations.”
For more information on 1225 contact Phone 718-575-3100 email- firstname.lastname@example.org