Jewish Journal

BBG + Mom Power = A Very Special Trip to Israel

by Michelle K. Wolf

March 9, 2012 | 7:08 pm

If you want to make things happen in Autism-land in Los Angeles (and by extension other developmental disabilities), the best go-to person is my longtime friend Judy Mark, the Governmental Relations Chair for Autism Society of Los Angeles. We met each other many years ago in high school while in BBYO, with her growing up in Downey and me in La Mirada. Although I’m far from a shrinking violet, I am an absolute wallflower compared to Judy, who was Regional President, and personified the word “leadership” in every way.

Flash forward a few decades, and Judy was working in Washington DC for national advocacy organizations representing immigrants and low‐income families while I was in Los Angeles, working in local government, various non-profits and The Jewish Federation.

After her son was diagnosed with autism, she and her family decided to move back to California, and through a mutual friend, she learned I was also raising a son with developmental disabilities, and we reconnected, with our kids now enrolled together in the Vista Inspire Project, doing theater and Judaica classes.

One day over lunch, Judy told me she just come back from visiting relatives in Israel, and while there, had toured two amazing special needs programs, Beit Issie Shapiro and Kibbutz Kishorit, both of which offer innovative approaches to supporting and helping people with developmental disabilities. The next time I was in Israel, we also had the chance to visit both places, and came away very impressed, wondering why we didn’t have similar programs back here in Los Angeles.

Now, in collaboration with the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, many others will now have the opportunity to come to Israel with Judy and me this July 20-27, and visit not only these two wonderful places, but many others as well, such as Kibbutz Harduf, Center for Independent Living; Israel Unlimited (inclusion and advocacy); Aleh Negev (residential community for the most severely disabled); Israeli Defense Forces inclusion program; and JDC’s Supportive Community for People with Disabilities, plus many other amazing programs—whew!

Our study/exchange trip is for parents, professionals, and leaders in the disability rights community in Los Angeles to explore the country’s cutting-edge programs that provide vocational training, paid employment opportunities, and residential options for individuals with developmental disabilities. Our focus is on older teens and young adults, and when we get to Los Angeles, that’s when the real work begins, collaborating together to replicate some of those innovative models that are a good match for our community here.

Cost (not including airfare) - $2,000 per person, based on double occupancy. Includes hotel in the Tel Aviv area, most meals, on-the-ground transportation, and meetings.

If you are interested in coming along on this special trip, there’s an informational meeting this Tuesday, March 13 at 7 pm at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, 6505 Wilshire Blvd. (near San Vicente. For security purposed, RSVP is required. For more information and to get on our email list, please contact Judy Mark at judymark@earthlink.net



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