He spent a decade growing at Kulanu, and as he graduates from its most senior program, Far Rockaway resident Yoni Olenick, 21, recounts the variety of Kulanu options that transformed him to an active and outspoken member of the local Jewish community, an advocate and role model.
Yoni’s most recent experience with Kulanu was its Gesher program, where participants spend three months working at Kibbutz Shluchot in northern Israel. Closer to home, Yoni, who is autistic, completed a year at the Hewlett Trader Joe’s supermarket this week, and is facing interviews for his next position. Having worked all over the Five Towns, he has the entire community as his reference.
My Graduation Speech 2011
By Yoni Olenick
When I was 11 years old, my mom and I met Dr. Beth Raskin and soon after I started attending Kulanu Talmud Torah twice a week at the HAFTR elementary school and the Kulanu Sunday program also at the elementary school. Back then, we didn’t have our own building like we do now. Those days were great because even though I was still in a special ed. public school, I really looked forward to my Talmud Torah afternoons. Those were the afternoons I’d put on my kippa and would learn with Rabbi Moskowitz, I was already reading Hebrew so it was really a little easier. The Sunday program was also really fantastic. We would make really cool arts and crafts projects and wood work projects, some I still have and that’s when I got to meet Jonathan Cooper, a very special friend.
When I was 12, I started Kulanu Middle School, in the HAFTR Middle School, which were great years for me too. It was great to be in a full time yeshiva program. The Judaic studies and secular subjects started to make more sense to me around this time - learning different subjects is complicated, but my teachers were all so helpful. Ms. Shiowitz and Ms.Rosenberg were such good secular studies teachers. They both helped me out a lot and I really learned so much from Rabbi Moskowitz and Rabbi Friedman, my Rebbes.