Posted by Sandy Slavet

Dnep Dance PartyDid you know that if it's 10:00 in the morning in Waltham, MA, then it is 5:00 in the evening in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine? I didn't know about that seven-hour difference until I began working with people from the JF&CS Special Needs Initiative Project, JCRC, and the Special Education Resources Center in Dnepropetrovsk on a special event where that knowledge would become vital to planning the evening: an international dance party for young adults with disabilities from Greater Boston and young adults with disabilities from "Dnep."

On October 19, while approximately 60 participants, family members, and volunteers had brunch at JF&CS Headquarters in Waltham, approximately 90 of our new friends in Dnep had dinner. After our very different meals, we danced to great music from the US and great music from Ukraine. Through the miracle of Skype, we were rockin' and rollin' as if we had known each other for years! Imagine doing "The Electric Slide" and "YMCA" without understanding a word of English and imagine dancing to "Odna Kalina" without knowing a word of Russian. As it turns out, it's not a problem: young adults know how to dance and have a great time in any language! Our DJ here in Waltham, who has DJ'd for us on several occasions, prepared a great playlist and managed to keep everyone up and moving on the two dance floors some 4,700 miles apart. She is also a participant of Chaverim Chaim: Friends for Life and is a young woman who has Down syndrome.

The dance party was a nice way to bring joy to families of children with disabilities – and for the members of the Ukranian community in Dnep to take their minds off of the political turmoil, fighting, and struggle nearby.

Thank you to Sue Wolf-Fordham who came up with the idea for the dance. Thanks to the volunteers here at JF&CS Headquarters in Waltham: Marcy Levine, Jacob Aison, and Scott Granowitz for all their help and thanks to "Company B," an a cappella group from Brandeis University for a great performance. Also, a very special thank you to the IT staff at JF&CS for making the tech part of the event work smoothly. None of this could have happened without Michael Cahalane and Roger Zimmerman and their tech support!

So whether it's bagels and cream cheese or borscht and sour cream, what really matters is new friends, new songs, lots of fun, and of course - Skype!

Sandy SlavetSandy Slavet is the Director of Jewish Life Services for People with Disabilities. Sandy works with CHAI and CHAI Works participants providing social, educational, and Jewish programs including Shabbat and Jewish holiday celebrations as well as participation in community activities at local synagogues and other community locations. She also leads several social programs for adults with disabilities including Chaverim Shel Shalom, Chaverim Chaim (Friends for Life), and Jewish Signers of Massachsetts. Before coming to JF&CS in 2001, Sandy was an ASL Interpreter in private practice. Sandy is active in many community organizations and is an active member of her synagogue. Most importantly, she and her husband, Joe, have four wonderful daughters; her youngest daughter, Marie, is a beautiful 26-year-old who happens to have Down Syndrome.