Delivery for Your Brain

Need an amazing challah recipe? Want a book on Jewish history for your child’s report? How about a film for the next holiday? Well, now you can order in.

The Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles (JCLLA) created @ Your Door, a service to send some of its 25,000 books and resource materials directly to your home. From cookbooks to history books to Judaica to kids books, JCLLA will send you materials free of charge.

“At Your Door was conceived as a way to make it convenient for people to use the resources from this library — many of them are resources people aren’t able to find elsewhere,” said Abigail Yasgur, the creator of the program. She hopes that the convenience of home delivery will encourage the community to utilize the library — the only one of its kind completely devoted to books, CDs and DVDs on Jewish history, literature, arts and culture.

You don’t even need a membership card. Browse the online card catalog and have your driver’s license ready when you call in for checkout. If you live in Los Angeles, @ Your Door will then send off your package with a return label. One catch: You have to cover the cost of return postage. There is also a drop box at the library.

The program — now one year old — is popular at schools, where teachers send for materials they can use in the classroom. With a generous grant from the West Coast office of the KARMA Foundation, the library purchased audiobooks and will cater to the visually impaired.

Despite the extra cost of actually sending out the materials, Yasgur feels confident that it’s money well spent.

“I love people discovering their Judaism, and if they do it through reading … or resources like this, it’s the greatest thing we can bring the community,” she said.

For more information, contact Jewish Community Library
of Los Angeles at (323) 761-8644 or

It’s a Full Plate in Nourishing the Sick

Bob S. insists that his mother back in Virginia made the best chicken soup ever, but he’s willing to admit the homemade version delivered to his Van Nuys apartment is a close second.

The delivery is part of the mission of Project Chicken Soup, an all-volunteer group that cooks, packages and personally delivers kosher meals twice a month to patients living with HIV and AIDS. It might be a chicken breast or a casserole, along with the soup, salad, fruit, dessert or even a protein drink.

Bob, who’s 61 and lives alone, said the food is crucial for him, but it goes deeper than that. “If it wasn’t for Project Chicken Soup, there wouldn’t be a connection to the Jewish community for some of us, and I wouldn’t be cooking for myself,” he said. “I don’t have the energy or the interest or the desire to eat.”

For Project Chicken Soup President Rod Barn, whose client list has grown steadily from 20 in the early ’90s to more than 100, the task of meeting a growing demand when charitable donations and grants are harder to secure is a never ending challenge.

“So far, we haven’t had to turn anyone away, and we don’t want to,” Barn said. “A lot of our clients say when they get our food, it reminds them of better times. They smell the chicken soup, and it brings them love and warmth, and that’s what we’re about.”

It’s a similar story elsewhere, from small programs to large, as medical advances mean more people are living better and longer with AIDS and HIV. Whether it’s Project Chicken Soup; Aids Service Foundation (ASF) Orange County, with its 1,500 clients; St. Vincent’s Meals on Wheels, which serves 50 to 75 HIV and AIDS patients a day out of 1,650 clients; or Project Angel Food, which cooks and delivers 1,200 meals daily, they have to do more with less.

Larry Kuzela of ASF Orange County said this “has always been a struggle and continues to be. We’ve never had a waiting list, and we’ve never turned anyone away, but we have a reserve fund, and we’ve had to dig into our reserves.” Sister Alice Marie of St. Vincent’s was only half joking when she said, “I pray a lot” to make sure there is enough money.

At Project Angel Food, considered a model for this type of service nationally, Executive Director John Gile said, “We’ve added 800 new clients in 2002 alone, yet we have over 20,000 donors, with the average gift being $38. We always seem to get the gift when we need it most.”

“Since we’re based in Hollywood, we have strong support and generosity from the entertainment industry, which this year alone will help us raise a half-million dollars,” he continued. “We’re proud to say that if you call Project Angel Food today, you get a meal tomorrow”

On the other side of the table, groups that give grants and funding to AIDS service providers would like to do more, but they also must compete for donations. For example, MAZON, A Jewish Response to Hunger, which receives the majority of its donations from individuals, plans to give away approximately $3.4 million to 250 organizations nationwide in this fiscal year. Project Angel Food and Project Chicken Soup, which is under the umbrella of Jewish Family Service, a beneficiary agency of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, are among the grant recipients.

Grants Director Mia Johnson said, “The sense or urgency is not as strong as it was in the ’80s and ’90s, so it’s a challenge for these organizations to make sure people understand their ongoing needs and the evolution of those needs”

The nutritionally balanced meals that are provided can literally make the difference between life and death for those struggling to stay healthy, and that’s why Steven F. of Santa Monica, said of Project Angel Food’s work: “It’s very crucial. Every day, I think of it as a gift. It is something I look forward to, and it provides me with good, cooked food that I wouldn’t and couldn’t do for


For more information about Project Chicken Soup, call
(323) 655-5330 or visit “>; for MAZON, call (310)
442-0020 or visit

Delivery Pains

Coming back home, I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “It is done,” I sighed.

My husband and I had just returned to Los Angeles after packing and shipping her things, flying and installing her.

We’d hugged her goodbye and cried. There were three of us at home now instead of four, and a room that for years had been the subject of arguments over neatness was tidy. We had taken our daughter to college.

During the time leading up to her delivery — which had started just about nine months earlier with the filling-in of applications — activity had made the reality of the goal vague. As with so many milestones in life, busyness blurred purpose.

In April, there were the stomach-wrenching trips to the mailbox, seeking fat envelopes and fearing thin ones, which signaled rejection. The school our daughter most wanted to attend was the last to respond, and the wait was torturous. Then, on a Saturday, the mailbox-filling manila envelope from the Connecticut college arrived: She was in!

And that’s when it literally hit home: My daughter, my firstborn, would be going 3,000 miles away.

During the summer, I managed to block that hard truth as the school whose envelope had tortured us with its late arrival couldn’t stop dropping us mail — about laundry services, Internet hookups, dorm and school supplies. I responded to the practical, and emotional, onslaught in the manner 18 years of motherhood had taught me: I made lists. By mid-August, a trunk, duffel bag and several boxes were shipped. The lists were working.

What didn’t appear on any list, however, was how to cope with the mixture of pride and pain of the day. Waiting in the taxi that would take us to the airport, my husband and I fought tears as our 14-year-old son emerged from the house to say goodbye to his big sister. “When did he get taller than her?” I pondered, furrowing my brow against the gathering tears as my children exchanged a hug and a joke that only they would understand.

The drive north took hours longer than expected, as we made our way through traffic in our rented van. Although I was in no hurry to complete this mission, the stasis was agonizing, and I found myself feeling terribly blue. Images of a sweethearted girl with whom I’d watched “Sesame Street” and sold Girl Scout cookies, to whom I’d explained the ways of bite plates and pantyhose, filtered through the mounds of stalled metal surrounding us, and thickened my throat with melancholy. I swallowed hard against it.

And then: dormitory move-in day. Treading gingerly around boxes and suitcases covering every inch of floor space, we diligently worked to turn a walk-in-closet-sized room into something approximating hominess. We had until 5 p.m., at which point the schedule cooly stated, that freshmen must gather for their class picture — and it would be time for “family farewells.”

At 5:03 p.m., the three of us still wading knee-deep in Styrofoam, my daughter gasped, “We’ve gotta go,” and rushed us from her room.

A stream of young people filled up a gently sloping hill that led to the photo area. My daughter, joined by two dormmates she’d somehow managed to meet, turned and gave each of us a hug. “I’ll see you in a few months,” she said. And then, in the blink of her parents’ brimming eyes, she disappeared into the moving tide of freshmen.

On the morning of her birth, I had swaddled her in blankets and held her close. On this evening in late August, I’d opened my arms and let her go. In both instances, I’d delivered her. But this delivery, I realized, was the true reward of all my maternal efforts. I had brought my daughter into life, and now I had delivered her, vibrant and eager to embrace the world.

Still, as my husband and I held hands and walked back to the car, I did, finally, cry.

Elyce Wakerman is the author of “Father Loss: Daughters Discuss the Man That Got Away.” She teaches composition at CSUN and is currently working on a book about the year her daughter left for college.