2018-07-18 / Home

The Commons will offer new opportunities for area’s special needs families


One of the first children to attend the JCC Camps at Medford through the Open Hearts/Open Doors program for children with special needs, 26-year-old Sydney Solomon feels at home within the South Jersey Jewish community.

There has always been classes or activities offered through Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey and its agencies for Sydney, who is developmentally and intellectually delayed as well as deaf, that have provided fun, friends and a sense of belonging.

And soon, for the first time, there will be an affordable housing complex offering adults like her the opportunity to live independently in the community they love side-by-side with senior citizens.

“It’s so wonderful that this is finally happening in Cherry Hill for this community,” said her mother Paula Solomon, who attended the July 10 ceremony to mark the start of Jewish Federation’s Commons at 1721.

“I am really hoping she’s going to have the opportunity to live here,” said Solomon, of Cherry Hill. “We’ve been trying to get this off the ground since Sydney was a little girl.”

“The Commons represents opportunity for all of us,” said Linda Newman, co-chair of the Southern New Jersey Jewish Abilities Alliance (JAA) with her husband Eric.

“Young adults with special needs will be able to live productive, independent, safe lives, where they will have an oversight structure and friends nearby so they can stay in the community they love and are familiar with and have the benefit of seniors — with their experiences and patience—along with their communal family,” she said.

Added Eric: “This is great but we need more of this: More opportunities for people to live and be part of their communities.”

For Haddon Township resident Jennifer Hoheisel, the timing could not be better. Her son Will, 25, recently became engaged to his girlfriend Mandy Mainart, whom he met when both were students at Camden County College. Both are on the autism spectrum and have jobs—but not even with their pooled income could they hope to make enough money to live in market rate housing. Their wedding date in 2019 is close to the expected opening of The Commons.

“It’s a journey that none of us thought we’d be on,” said Hoheisel. “It’s exciting but it’s also scary.”

She said she could picture the synergy of seniors and young adults with special needs living together.

“The elderly may be more frail physically but may still be fairly sharp intellectually,” she noted. “They could help in mentoring a population that might have intellectual disabilities but physically are helpful. Will and Mandy both could help with groceries, shoveling and other physical things. As with a lot of people in their population, they’re incredibly good with older people. There’s respect both ways.” 

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