OHEL and Etta Hold First Ever National Shabbaton for Adults with Developmental Disabilities
Residents from OHEL Bais Ezra in NY and Etta at OHEL in CA Meet in Los Angeles
Twenty women from four of OHEL Bais Ezraâ€™s New York group homes spent a week-long vacation in Los Angeles. The highlight of their trip was not the typical visit to Six Flags Hurricane Harbor or Universal Studios. Rather it was the first-in-a-lifetime meeting and socializing with peers from Etta at OHEL group homes in the Valley and a never-to-forget Shabbaton at Congregation Shaarey Zedek.
OHEL Childrenâ€™s Home and Family Services recently merged with the Etta to form Etta at OHEL â€“ an agency founded in 1993 in Los Angeles, and a leader in the provision of residential services to Jewish adults with developmental disabilities in California.
On Wednesday evening August 28th OHEL Bais Ezra individuals were warmly welcomed into the Etta at OHEL Ryzman Family Group Home in the Valley. Dr. Michael Held, Executive Director of Etta, commented, â€śthe evening was one of non-stop dancing and singing but most importantly one of new connections as residents from N.Y. and L.A. shared life stories and experiences with one another.â€ť The evening lasted late into the night and everyone looked forward to the upcoming Shabbaton. Mrs. Stein, a parent of an Etta resident who was in attendance, said the evening â€śepitomized the new opportunities, the extended family and support we have found in the union with OHEL.â€ť
Friday evening, Rabbi Jonathan Rosenberg of Congregation Shaarey Zedek, and his community warmly welcomed over 100 individuals and staff from OHEL and Etta for the first ever national shabbaton of its kind. At the Friday night seudah, Tali Hill, challenged with cerebral palsy, spoke emotively of the importance in â€śensuring that no one is ever alone.â€ť Her eloquence and courage struck all and many a tear of joy was shed in the room.
After Shabbos morning davening, Etta friend Moshe Beinenfeld addressed the entire kehilla and speaking with much humor and poise shared his experiences of growing up with autism and reflected on the importance of inclusiveness in a community â€śwhere differences are embraced and appreciated.â€ť
Josh Taff, Director of Outreach and Programming at Etta and a powerhouse of exuberance and energy throughout the Shabbos, commented that it was the â€śmost amazing ruach filled shabbos experience ever!â€ť
A highlight of the Shabbos was also a celebration of the engagement of Danielle Magady of LA and Shlomo Myers of Chicago, a couple with Downâ€™s syndrome. All Shabbaton participants danced in Danielleâ€™s honor and wished her many mazal tovs.
Meira Feinerman, Ettaâ€™s Assistant Director of Marketing, commented that â€śover the course of just a few days individual connections blossomed into new-found friendships â€“ and we hope to continue this bonding between our organizationsâ€™ clients.â€ť
A dedicated team of OHEL and Etta staff contributed to the success of the event including Henriette Kadoch, Hadar Barak, Leah Schachter, Josh Taff, Ariella Seiger, Adam Rhodes, Nati Schreiber. Also in attendance at the Shabbaton included Adrin Nazarian Assembly member 46th District and his Field Representative Mindy Lake, Carol Koransky, Executive Vice President and Executive Director Valley Alliance, Michael Halpern, President of Congregation Shaarey Zedek, and Sharon Levine Co-president of the Etta OHEL Board.
Visiting from New York as well, OHELâ€™s Director of Communications Derek Saker conveyed that â€śthe newfound East-to-West coast relationship allows OHEL and Etta to leverage a national breadth of service expertise, further breakdown stigma and drive greater community-wide integration across the U.S.â€ť
Devorah, an adult resident from an OHEL Bais Ezra in Brooklyn, perhaps best encapsulated the weeks experience when she conveyed that â€śNo matter what abilities we may have, or whatever our backgrounds, we are all one family!â€ť
Click here to see some pictures from the event! http://www.ohelfamily.org/?q=node/850
Click here to see a video from the event! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_tsrXENNOQ
Since 1969, OHEL Childrenâ€™s Home and Family Services has served as a dependable haven of individual and family support, helping people of all ages surmount everyday challenges, heal from trauma, and manage with strength and dignity during times of crises. Driven by service excellence, OHELâ€™s professional staff meet the myriad social service needs of the general community, while at the same time providing culturally-sensitive services to the Jewish community, including Yiddish, Hebrew and Russian speakers. Through highly-rated foster care, developmental disability, mental health, and other programs and services, OHEL provides supportive housing, treatment, care coordination, education, outreach and much more to elevate lives and strengthen individuals and communities in New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, Florida, California and worldwide on the web. David Mandel is the CEO of OHEL.