Our Federation’s Sylvia Weisz Women’s Philanthropy is a diverse community of compassionate and committed Jewish women connected by Jewish values. Judy Rosen, a Lion of Judah and active member of our Los Angeles Jewish community, shares her story with us — why she became a Lion, the impact of the Federation on her life, and her relationship with her mother.
Faces of Federation
February is Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month. As part of our Federation’s commitment to inclusion, every week this month we will feature a blog written by either a member of our community, his or her parent, or a volunteer or professional working with one of our partner organizations that serves individuals with special needs. We recently interviewed Rachel O’Kelley, an 11-year-old 7th grader at Bridges Academy, a school for “2e” (“twice exceptional”) kids. Rachel has participated in the Nes Gadol Program at Federation’s partner organization Vista del Mar for several years. Nes Gadol provides Jewish education and B’nei Mitzvah and confirmation programs for children and teens of all abilities. Rachel enjoys helping people through community service and performing stand-up comedy. She also loves art, video games, watching movies with her family, and, most recently, horseback riding.
When 24 young men and women traveled to Brandeis-Bardin on January 5 for the Rautenberg New Leaders Program Weekend Retreat, they arrived as a group of individuals, each of whom wanted to make their mark on the civic space of Los Angeles. By the time they headed back to their lives as busy professionals, they were a cohort, excited to spend a year learning, growing, and acquiring the skills that will help them change the future of our city — together.
We recently interviewed Michelle K. Wolf, a community member and the founder and executive director of Jewish Los Angeles Special Needs Trust. Michelle’s son Danny is involved with Federation’s partner organization ETTA, which provides programs and services that enable those with disabilities to live fully enriched, independent, and active lives.
My name is Nathan Bentolila, and I am a Brawerman Fellow and Bioengineering major currently in my second year at UC Berkeley (Cal). Even with Cal’s demanding work load, over the past 3 semesters I have taken part in a variety of academic and non-academic clubs and student groups. I work in a lab, am on two intermural sports teams, and am also very involved in the Jewish community. I am a regular member of my campus’ Hillel and the president of the campus Chabad. At Chabad, we hold weekly Jewish events and host Friday night dinners every week. I have also been very involved in our campus’ Zionist club: Tikvah Students for Israel, where I’m the vice president and participate in the planning of 10-15 events per semester. Last spring, we organized Hebrew Liberation Week, attended by hundreds of students, and this past October we hosted Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz for an event, which drew more than 400 students.
When I arrived at UCLA as a freshman in 2016, I was unsure how my involvement in the Jewish community would evolve without my home congregation or my monthly retreats with the National Federation of Temple Youth. Little did I know that the Brawerman Fellowship would be the key to redefining my Jewish journey as an adult.
I was standing inside an authentic Nazi railcar — full of millions of paper clips — in what would seem to be the most unlikely place. This railcar is located in front of a middle school in a tiny, predominantly Christian, Tennessee town. As a teary-eyed 14-year-old girl guided a Holocaust survivor through the car, she asked the elderly woman if she wanted to place a paper clip in the memorial railcar to honor her family that perished in the Holocaust. “Yes,” the woman replied softly, “My family has no graves.”
In the past two and a half years, I attended Passover seders in Milan and Sofia, celebrated Rosh Hashanah in Skopje, and observed Yom Kippur in Thessaloniki and Jerusalem. I lit Chanukah candles in Los Angeles and Shabbat candles in Budapest and Belgrade. I went on Jewish tours in Mumbai and Barcelona, and raised a glass with Jews from Tallinn, Prague, Johannesburg, and Buenos Aires.
Since first being elected to the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education a few months ago, I’ve been thinking about a story from the Book of Kings. God appears to a young King Solomon in a dream and tells him that he could have anything in the world. Solomon asks for a “lev shomeah,” a listening and understanding heart. Were I to be visited by God and asked the same question, I’d probably start with more funding for our local schools. But, given that Solomon had a pretty successful reign, I think there’s something to his answer.
I attend the University of California, San Diego, where I’m majoring in Ecology and Evolution. It’s the only thing I’ve ever been really passionate about, and the only thing I’ve wanted to study. Being at a top-tier research university gives me access to a lot of opportunities that I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. And the main reason I am able to be here is because of the Brawerman Fellowship. The program has taken a tremendous load off my shoulders because I no longer have to worry so much about financing my education. I can focus more on succeeding and pursuing these new opportunities that are available to me. But while I am greatly appreciative of the financial support, I don’t think it is the most valuable thing Brawerman has given me. Let me explain.