| Large Turnout for Los Angeles Etta Israel-OHEL Dessert Reception
BY RABBI ARYE D. GORDON
On Sunday evening April 21, the 11th Annual Dessert Reception was held for the Etta Israel Center-OHEL Organization, hosted by Steve and Lorraine Spira.
The Etta Israel Center provides services to enable people with special needs to live rich, active lives as members of the Los Angeles community.
It is not surprising that Jews from throughout Los Angeles attended this reception for an organization that does so much for so many. Most likely everyone there knows someone in the community who relies on Etta Israel for some kind of help. Whether it is their Educational Programs, Summer Program, Life Skills Training or Residential Services, Etta Israel is there, doing its job in a most exemplary manner..
Among the programs are the Ner Shoshana Class, which teaches social skills, life skills and functional academic skills, in addition to Jewish education for high school-age girls with developmental disabilities. The Fund was started by Eliyahu Dovid and Shifra Hayman in memory of their daughter, Shoshana, Hy”d, who died in the terrorist bombing of the Sbarro pizza restaurant in Yerushalayim in 2001.
Another program is the Ner Yaakov Class, in memory of Reb Aharon Yaakov Kornwasser, z”l, which provides an academically focused Jewish education for boys with learning disabilities.
Reb Moishe Streicher was the emcee, who extended thanks to Eliyahu Dovid and Shifra Hayman, Sharon Levine, Tali Merewitz, Brenda Walt, Penny Pflaster, GEMS Party Rentals, and Karen and Richard Lesser.
The co-chairs were Lila Eilat, Tzipporah Coronel, Jackie Kest, Rivka Gross, Tali Merewitz, Cheryl Nagel, Betty Ryzman and Deena Zyskind.
Two Ner Yaakov students, Gadol Aaron Stern and Yitzy Lunger, under the direction of Rabbi Benzion Litenatsky, enthralled the audience with their a cappella vocal renditions.
Dr. Michael Held, Executive Director of the Etta Israel Center, described the recent activities and growth of Etta Israel, now joined with OHEL of New York.
The merger has resulted in an ability to better serve the diverse and growing needs of individuals and families. Etta Israel and OHEL are the largest providers of residential services for Jewish adults with special needs in the U.S. There are now over 30 programs for children and adults.
A special basketball was presented to the host, Mr. Steve Spira, by two students of Ner Yaakov School; a video of the Etta and OHEL programs was shown.
The guest speaker, Mr. Charles Harary, has traveled all over the world on speaking engagements. Mr. Harary is a Clinical Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship at the Syms School of Business at Yeshiva University.
Mr. Harary began by recalling a conversation he had had with his grandfather, whom he had asked, “Zaide, if there is one thing that you feel I should know in life, what is it?”
His grandfather thought for a moment and said, “You need to know how a Yid deals with darkness.”
“Sometimes there is darkness in our lives. Sometimes there is pain. And we ask, why is there darkness?"
“I got the answer to my question from a Jewish doctor in Florida whose father was a Nazi, ym”s honored by the German leader, ym”s. Growing up in Germany in the 70s, he knew nothing of the Jews and the Holocaust. After hearing of the murder in Munich of the Jewish athletes, he decided to find out about the Jews and their devastation by the Germans."
“The result of all his searching was a desire to be a Jew; after many years, he was finally converted. This converted Jew told me that he discovered that the Jewish people are eternal, and that they deal with darkness with hope. With light."
“This is the legacy of our people and of the parents of those who are part of Etta Israel. Not to despair, not to curse the darkness, but to create light."
“Let us all remember that we are eternal. That Ner Shoshana and Ner Yaakov are our response to darkness. May we get to a place where there is no more darkness. May it come soon in our day, bimheira b’yamenu.”
The large turnout and support for Etta Israel by the community was overwhelming. For more information about their programs and the Etta Israel Center, call (818) 985-3882.
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