5 Questions For: Rabbi Yossi Harlig
SocialMiami’s Cristina Mas speaks to Friendship Circle Miami’s Executive Director, Rabbi Yossi Harlig about inclusion, friendship and plans for a new campus.
Cristina Mas: How does Friendship Circle Miami promote inclusion?
Rabbi Yossi Harlig: Friendship Circle Miami’s goal is to promote inclusion for all children and adults with special needs, both within the organization and throughout the community. We open our hearts to as many families as possible, to foster the essence of belonging, as we understand the difficulties faced for those who feel they are not “seen.”
We believe education, awareness and empathy are keys to achieving inclusion – our team, partners, sponsors, and volunteers are passionate, kind, and well-versed in fostering an inclusive and safe space for our special friends and their families.
We encourage individuals and businesses to reflect and ask themselves: “How do you feel about belonging in your community? And, how can we make others with special needs also share in the experience of belonging?” It is organizations like Friendship Circle Miami that allow them to thrive and build these impactful relationships.
CM: Now more than ever, why is it important to help children and young adults with special needs?
RYH: Our mission to raise awareness for children and young adults with special needs continues with a strong passion. Since the pandemic, the whole world truly experienced the feeling of isolation. However, the sense of loneliness is an emotion regularly felt by individuals with special needs, both before the pandemic, and even more so today. Friendship, love, and inclusion are the remedies for solitude, and the best part is…they are all free at Friendship Circle Miami.
CM: How can “Friendship” change the course of someone’s life?
RYH: Everyone wants to feel the sense of belonging, including you and me. Feeling valued and cared for is an essential need for all humans. For decades, studies have proven that people who live long and are happy share the common factor of maintaining strong friendships. Ultimately, friendship makes every day feel worthwhile and drives our life purpose.
CM: Are there any themes or focuses for this year’s Gala?
RYH: We are looking forward to returning to our in-person format at the beautiful Fairchild Botanical Gardens for the 3rd Annual Heart & Soul Gala on November 4th. Every year, our goal is to enjoy good company, celebrate friendships and bolster the organization’s footprint in the community. This year, there is a particular highlight around fundraising and building awareness for our new, state-of-the art campus that will better serve the needs of our special friends and their families. The Gala is a momentous occasion to further support reaching the finish line to break ground on the 20,000 square foot facility that is sure to change lives.
CM: How will Friendship Circle Miami’s new facility improve the organization’s programs and services?
RYH: To promote the prosperity for inclusion, we hope to welcome many more families to Friendship Circle Miami through our new campus, which will quadruple our enrollment capabilities. The programming and services will increase by more than 40 percent and reach an additional 1,500 children in our community, accelerating enrollment by more than 300 percent. This changes real lives, working hand-in-hand with families in a tangible setting that will be like no other in the United States.
Hence, we encourage everyone to support Friendship Circle Miami and the spirit of belonging by joining us for an enchanted evening at the upcoming gala. Tickets can be purchased at this link
Brett Graff is SocialMiami.com’s managing editor and has been a journalist covering money, people and power for over 20 years. Graff contributes to national media outlets including Reuters, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, Maxim, and the PBS show, Nightly Business Report. A former U.S. government economist, her nationally syndicated column The Home Economist is first published in The Miami Herald and then on the Tribune Content Agency, where it’s available to over 400 publications nationwide. She is broadcast weekly on two iHeartRadio news shows and is the author of “Not Buying It: Stop Overspending & Start Raising Happier, Healthier, More Successful Kids,” a parenting guide for people who might be tempted to buy their children the very obstacles they’re trying to avoid.