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The YALA Los Angeles Mini Mission

It is through the generosity of its donors that Jewish Federation Los Angeles is able to meet the needs of the community. These donors include young adults who give both their time and money. As one of the many young adults with more limited giving capacities, I was eager to know exactly where my hard-earned dollars are being spent – and JFed answered the call!

Recently, I joined with the Federation’s YALA (Young Adults of Los Angeles) team and a dozen other inquiring minds on a Los Angeles Mini Mission so I could see for myself how our Federation cares for Jews in need, ensures the Jewish future, and engages in our community through funding of programs in these areas.

Stop 1: The Friendship Circle
There are far more Jewish special needs kids in Los Angeles than most people realize. The Friendship Circle provides them with the social interactions and friendships we all crave and cherish – in a Jewish environment. We had the opportunity to watch a group of boys participate in a Kung Fu class where kids are safe from judgment and are treated with the respect and patience. After my visit, I felt relieved to know that our Federation is partnering with Friendship Circle so it can work tirelessly to touch the lives of these children and to give them the friendships and the Jewish education that they deserve.

Stop 2: JFS SOVA
The SOVA Community Food and Resource Program of Jewish Family Service is not a typical food pantry – its services far surpass that. SOVA tackles hunger from a holistic approach while keeping intact the dignity of those who seek its services. Knowing that hunger is not an isolated issue, staff and volunteers help provide people with the resources needed to get back on their feet, including case management, career counseling, or free legal counseling, amongst other services.

Visiting SOVA really made me think about the way I treat food. I never worry about where my next meal might come from. My biggest food-related concerns revolve around if I should buy my lunch from the cafeteria or from Plaza Cafe. How trivial. My experience showed me that I could be the one lining up for help. It could be my family, my friends, or my co-workers. I left with the reminder that I should continue to be grateful for my blessings and to help others in their time of need.

Stop 3: Holy Land Democracy Project
John, a religion teacher at Bishop Montgomery High School, and Karly, one of his former students, met us at Restaurant 26 for dinner. An educator involved with the Federation’s Holy Land Democracy Project, John traveled to Israel, bringing back with him a passion for the Holy Land and a program saturated with first-hand experience. His Catholic students were so enthralled with John’s narrative and the curriculum that a small group, including Karly, traveled to Israel to experience it for themselves.

As the adult child of inter-marriage, interfaith issues have always been important to me. Hearing John and Karly, both devout Catholics, speak so passionately about Israel was extremely moving. I believe that misunderstanding or ignorance is what often drives anti-Semitism or hate in general. Education is essential not only to our future but to our present. By educating Catholic high school students across Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Orange counties, the Holy Land Democracy Project is not only empowering teenagers with knowledge of Judaism and Israel, but is bridging the gap between Catholics and Jews across Southern California. John and Karly were examples of the extreme power of education. They gave me hope for the future of interfaith relations not only in L.A., but around the world. It is our turn as Jews to take the time and make the effort to learn about Catholicism, amongst other religions. A bridge goes two ways.

I am grateful to YALA and JFed for organizing this L.A. Mini Mission, as it made me extremely proud to be a Jew in Los Angeles. Additionally, it affirmed my decision to fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah by contributing to The Jewish Federation’s Annual Campaign. After my experience, I look forward to learning more about the work our Federation does in the community and the partnerships it has developed and nurtured.
For more information, e-mail YALA@JewishLA.org.

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