Six years ago, when Rabbi Jackie Redner was hired as a full-time rabbi at Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services center, she decided to visit the kids in the Nes Gadol program first. Nes Gadol is designed to prepare children with autism for their bar and bat mitzvahs — they learn about Jewish history and religious practice and write speeches about their relationship to Judaism and faith.
Lauren Levine is settling in with a group of friends apartment to watch “American Idol,” when a look of panic comes over her face. She rummages around, finds her keys and darts out.“I left the hair thing on,” she says when she returns, breathless, from her own apartment downstairs. “I was straightening Jasmine’s hair before we came up here, and I forgot to turn it off. Wow. That was close.” Levine has wide blue eyes accentuated with sparkly eye shadow, and her voice is spiced with a sense of interested wonder.
The largest recipients of the Jewish Community Foundation's (JCF) Cutting Edge Grants, announced this week and totaling $1.6 million, were three programs promoting Jewish identity and connection with Israel through art, music and community leadership