Having worked at The Jewish Federation for just three months, I’m still learning about each of the programs that help us fulfill our work to care for Jews in need, engage with the community, and ensure the Jewish future. On Thursday, November 29th, I was fortunate enough to join other Federation staff and leaders from the Del Rey Yacht Club on a mini-mission to three of the organizations receiving funding from The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
Our first stop was the nearest Jewish Family Service (JFS) senior center, Frieda Mohr Center. Seniors mingle at movie screenings, ping pong games, computer and Hebrew classes, and even poker tutorials. There are Shabbat services every week, and outings such as opera trips and a yearly marine cruise. Just down the street, the Hirsh Family Kosher Kitchen serves delicious, nutritious meals. To keep fit, seniors who have their doctor’s approval may use the Eichenbaum Health and Fitness Center, a small gym with easy-to-use recumbent exercise bikes, treadmills and more—one bike even features an attachment to keep stroke victims safe and secure.
Just as we were about to leave for our second location, a woman professed to our group that were it not for the help she received from the Frieda Mohr Center while recovering from an accident, she might have taken her own life. Her sobering remarks really drive home the importance of a place like this in our community.
Next, we toured Project Chicken Soup, a non-profit organization that provides free, nutritious kosher meals to people in Los Angeles living with AIDS, cancer, and other serious illnesses. Twice a month, on Sunday mornings, a large team of volunteers gathers in the well-equipped kitchen to wash, chop, mix, and bake 10 complete meals for each of the 150 individuals Project Chicken Soup serves. That’s a total of 1,500 meals, all freshly prepared and delivered hot in one day—an impressive feat. There is only one paid staff member at Project Chicken Soup; all others in this well-oiled, compassionate machine generously devote their time to ensuring those in need will not go hungry.
We concluded our mini-mission at Vista Del Mar, where we entered the sanctuary for a glimpse of the school’s Nes Gadol Jewish Life Programs. Inside, alternative Shabbat services, religious classes, and B’Nai Mitzvah are offered for families of children with special needs. It is a place of inclusion and acceptance, where children with autism are encouraged to express themselves—and their connection to Judaism—in whatever way they choose.
After singing Chanukah songs, one student showed us the Torah cover he’d designed; another flipped through the colorful pages of his published children’s book. And finally, 15-year-old Neil, one of the faces of our “I Am Federation” advertising campaign, stood on the bimah as a helper read a poignant speech he’d written about his experience with autism. Each and every one of the kids we met was talented, intelligent, and warm, and Vista Del Mar brings out the best in them. I applaud this place and anticipate it won’t be the last time I visit.
At the end of the day, I was overcome by the depth of services offered by the programs that The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles funds —and I was only privy to a close-up look at three of them. It makes me proud to be a Federation employee and I can’t wait to learn more about what we do and who we help in the weeks and months to come.
Click here to learn more about The Jewish Federation’s work Caring for Jews in Need.