JSDD has a long history of support for adults with developmental disabilities, dating back to 1989 as the first kosher, community based residence opened in Millburn under the auspices of a committee of United Jewish Federation of MetroWest (currently, Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest). In 1996, as the Committee determined that there was a greater need for these services, it evolved into an independent, non-profit and today supports 40 people in eleven sites in Essex, Morris and Union Counties with supervised, supportive residential services.


WAE Center Art Studio

In 2002, Marilynn Schneider (current Director of the WAE Center) was Director of JSDD’s Residential Services. As she developed relationships with the agency’s residents, it became apparent that the individuals we were supporting wanted more out of life, but did not have the experiences necessary to inform choices for alternatives to their existing day programs.

After a visit to Matheny’s School and Hospital in Peapack, Marilynn worked with Matheny’s Arts Access staff and the families of some of our residents to begin to explore the arts. In 2004, a generous grant from the Healthcare Foundation of NJ made it possible for JSDD to open the doors of the WAE Center with a strong arts component using the facilitated arts techniques of Arts Access with training, initially, by their staff.

While the WAE Center is much more than an arts program, providing a wide range of learning and enrichment opportunities, the WAE Arts studio has evolved into a hub of creative energy and expression and has developed its own identity and philosophy.

Artist facilitators in the studio step back as they promote a neutral, accepting environment focused on assisting the artists in expressing themselves through a variety of media. The communication, listening, movement, the rapport between the facilitator and artist are critical elements of the studio’s success. The relationships and bonds that form are beautiful and rich.

Artistic offerings have expanded beyond painting and drawing and now include photography, sculpture, jewelry and digital art. Member artists participate in workshops from visiting artists, regularly visit galleries throughout the area and exhibit and sell their artwork.

The WAE Center continues to offer an abundance of wellness and enrichment classes in addition to the arts. The Center’s census has grown since 2004 from eight (8) members to sixty (60) within the core program. Expansion to include afternoon respite, evening and Sunday enrichment offerings provides opportunities for more than 50 additional members of the community to participate. The holistic nature of the Center’s offerings, its diverse curriculum, the sharing of ideas, the respect for the whole person, the sense of community is what truly makes the Center unique.

Learn more about JSDD’s WAE Center

View artwork from WAE Alumni/ae