Every Sunday morning, Joseph Weiss waits by the window, anticipating the moment his buddies will come up the walkway. When the two teen boys get there—just to play with him—Joseph, an 11-year-old with developmental delays, bounds past his parents with hardly a wave.
Joseph’s parents, David and Michele Weiss, told this story when they were honored last month by the Friendship Circle, the organization that sends these friends to play with Joseph.
The Friendship circle pairs teen volunteers with special needs kids through its Friends at Home program, and through holiday celebrations, Sunday activities, and Club Kung Fu and the Girls Karate Club, where the volunteers and the kids together learn the martial art, a program funded by the Jewish Community Foundation. More than 220 teen volunteers from 37 middle and high schools – both Jewish and secular – are paired with about 140 kids with special needs.
The May 13 dinner at the Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills also honored about 20 teen volunteers who have been committed to Friendship Circle for several years. Jessica Kianmahd an 11th grader at Milken Community High School spoke of the friendship she has developed with the special needs child she visits.
The Weiss family recently funded the Max. T Weiss Birthday Bash celebrations, a monthly party—complete with projects, music, cake and gifts – for all the kids with birthdays that month. Michele Weiss also worked on getting Friendship Circle’s winter camp certified as a vendor for the state’s Regional Center system.
The Weisses lauded the Friendship Circle for its commitment to not look away or stare in the presence of special needs children, as others might do, but to welcome them into the community with warmth, music and love.
Founders Rabbi Michy and Miriam Rav-Noy were praised for the joy that fills any room they enter. The Rav-Noys founded the Friendship Circle just six years ago with 26 special needs kids and 42 volunteers.
To great applause, Michy Rav-Noy announced at the dinner that the organizations would be launching after-school Judaic classes for special needs children who are not in Jewish schools.