Rochel Groner and her husband Rabbi Bentzion Groner are Chabad emissaries in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is 34 years old and is the co-director with her husband of Friendship Circle and ZABS Place, organizations that provide innovative programming and employ young adults with special needs in Charlotte, North Carolina. Rochel Groner is an Autism Light for her daily work with individuals with autism and especially for her actions on July 14, 2017, to comfort a boy with autism during a meltdown while on board an 8 hour transatlantic flight.
On July 14, 2017, Rochel Groner (and Rabbi Bentzion Groner) were on a airplane flight headed home to the United States after taking a group of youth on a birthright trip to Israel. On this flight a boy with autism was having a meltdown on the plane. Rochel Groner used her experience, talents and compassion to help calm the boy for two hours until he was completely over his meltdown and ready to return to his mother.
Rochel Groner applied sensory pressure by holding the boy and found some creative games to play with him in the middle of the flight. She told the Jerusalem Telegraphic Agency (JTA) that after he calmed down, "It was beautiful to see. It was incredible, the transformation. Whatever had been bothering him wasn't bothering him, he was in a better place (Jerusalem Telegraphic Agency, Josefin Dolsten, July 17, 2017)."
Rabbi Bentzion Groner said of his wife, "While most of the passengers watched in awe little did they know that for Rochel this is her life (Jerusalem Telegraphic Agency, Josefin Dolsten, July 17, 2017)."
Below is the Facebook post that Rabbi Bentzion Groner posted about this incident. The post went viral and has received almost 7,000 likes over the first year since it was written.
Friendship Circle: Rochel Groner is the co-director of Friendship Circle. The Friendship Circle website describes its mission as that of "fostering enduring and meaningful friendships between those with special needs, our "Special Friends", and typically-developing teens, our "Teen Friends", in the Greater Charlotte Jewish Community."
ZABS Place: Rochel Groner is also the co-director of ZABS Place. The ZABS Place website describes its work in this way:
ZABS Place is an upscale thrift boutique & employment training center for young adults with special needs run by the Friendship Circle of Charlotte. We have chosen a resale shop as our employment medium because it mirrors our goal of revealing hidden potential (ZABS Place Website, Retrieved on May 31, 2018).Social Media: You can follow the work of Rochel Groner on the following social media sites.
Special thanks to Rochel Groner for being an Autism Light. Her compassionate and skilled intervention to help a boy with autism in the middle of his mid-flight meltdown on July 14, 2017, is an example to all. In addition, her work at Friendship Circle and ZABS Place is making a tremendous difference to young people with special needs and autism. We wish her all the best in her service that is transformed and inspired by her Chabad Jewish faith. Rochel Groner is shining a light as she lives her faith and serves humanitarian needs such as autism.
Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.