City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More
Featured Image

Featured Article

Bread With A Mission


Article by Lauren Wilson-Policke

Photography by Rising Above Bakery

The artisan breads, babkas and brownies produced by Rising Above Bakery share one key ingredient—they're made with pride by young adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDDs). An important byproduct, according to Founder and President Shiri Reuveni-Ullrich, is independence. Rising Above provides young adults with special needs baking workshops designed to make them independent in the kitchen and comfortable working collaboratively. In the planning stages is a brick-and-mortar bakery where bakers can be part of an inclusive team of employees, demonstrating their abilities and raising awareness about the value (and joy!) people with IDDs can bring to the workforce.

Rising Above Bakery empowers individuals with special needs, providing the skills needed for meaningful employment. With plans to open a brick-and-mortar shop on hold due to the pandemic, Rising Above currently operates as a cottage bakery from Reuveni-Ullrich's Chestnut Ridge kitchen and offers "baking for life" workshops, which provide instruction at an appropriate pace with abundant reinforcement.

From early on in her career as a pediatric speech therapist, Shiri Reuveni-Ullrich has shared her love of baking + cooking with students who, she says, strongly benefit from hands-on sensory experiences. The “aha-moment”? The day she stopped to listen to a group of non-verbal, mostly autistic teenagers, while they made cookies.

“They were humming and laughing. Whatever walled them in, they shed it off and became who they are,” she recalls. “This is it, I thought, this is what needs to be done.” 

Each week, Reuveni-Ullrich guides a small group of aspiring bakers in preparing sweet + savory treats that customers pre-order from—including an Olive + Rosemary Loaf, Nordic Rye, and Cherry + Chocolate Chip Cookies. Many items are vegan or GF, the latter a common dietary concern for those with IDDs.

Among the bakers is Connor Carson, a 20-year-old from Cresskill, NJ with Down Syndrome. According to his mother, Lisa Carson, Connor is thriving and cherishes being part of Rising Above.

“Existing employment opportunities for these adults are so limited and narrow in thought. I have known for a while that my son deserved something more,” shares Carson, secretary of the non-profit organization’s Board of Trustees. “Connor loves being part of Shiri's world and what she is building. He feels special while he is there and the way that he is respected is so heartwarming and important for Connor and for me.” 

All proceeds from sales—as well as donations to Rising Above's Kickstart Challenge—help fund ingredients, workshops, kitchenware and appliances needed to expand the number of young adults involved, widen distribution of their baked goods and, ultimately, open a café/bakeshop.

As Reuveni-Ullrich envisions, “For a few minutes, patrons become part of this model of 'everybody equal' and leave with a smile, because they have good bread and experienced a moment of joy."

I can attest that the baked goods are just as delicious as they look in these photos. Thanks to the Diaz Schloss Communications Team for dropping off some special treats to try! Pick up at one of three locations: Rising Above Bakery in Chestnut Ridge, NY and Hudson Market on Main in Nyack, NY, and Mindful Café in Ramsey, NJ. Or make a financial contribution to the Kickstart Challenge so they may continue to bake bread, together as one. Follow along on their adventures: @risingabovebakery