I was very moved and touched by Rob Eshman’s editorial last week (“I Miss Us,” May 13). I was born and raised in Los Angeles and, other than my years in Israel or New York, I spent every single Yom HaAtzmaut at a community Israel festival. Whether it was the 18K Walk for Life we had throughout the ’70s, culminating in a festival in Rancho Park, or Pan Pacific Park, or, more recently, Woodley Park, the festival is something that is a built-in part of my community identity as a Jew. I, too, loved to complain about the food, and I was always most anxious to go around to each booth and strike up a debate on an issue. I remember going to the JDL booth, and then to the Peace Now booth, and would love playing the “other side,” because the whole day felt like a living page of talmudic debates.
By the time they hit 18, most kids are anxious to get out into the real world. Headed to college, to travel or into a career, they’re ready to test the waters of adulthood. But for kids with special needs, the transition from home to independent living isn’t always easy. And for some Jewish young people in Los Angeles, that’s where the Etta Israel Center comes in.
The Etta Israel Center honored three young volunteers for their work in helping students with special needs. The Jan. 9 gala at the California Science Center recognized Esther Levine, Daniel Schwartz and
Rita Miller Statman for the time they’ve put in as one-on-one counselors at camp, weekend retreats and holiday programming for children and young adults with special needs.
This week, Jacob is doing research on the Internet for a little dvar Torah he'll be giving at the Etta Israel Shabbaton at Beth Jacob Congregation. Etta Israel is the popular local organization that caters to kids with Down syndrome and other special needs, and it's where Jacob studied Judaism every Sunday for seven years.