November 21, 2018

Judy Mark

Improving rights within the disabled community isn’t just a battle; it’s an out-and-out war, and activist Judy Mark is on the front lines. 

In 2013, as a co-chair of the Government Relations Committee of the Autism Society of Los Angeles (ASLA), Mark helped enact California’s self-determination law designed to give individuals with developmental disabilities greater control over the services they receive. Getting the law in place was a major victory, but seeing it through to implementation has been a challenging process.

Mark reports that progress is steady, and she is equally optimistic over federal regulations requiring individuals with disabilities to establish a person-centered plan in order to receive funding for state services. According to Mark, these plans will give affected individuals a greater say over the type of care they want to receive, bringing them directly into the discussion and giving them a voice.

“We’re really entering a new day for people with disabilities,” said Mark, the mother of an 18-year-old son who has autism. “I’m kind of on a mission to tell the world about it in whatever way I can.” 

Mark’s avenues for this mission are numerous and diverse. She recently co-taught a class titled Current Perspectives on the Autism Spectrum through the Disabilities Studies program at UCLA. In February, ASLA will hold a two-day “It’s a New Day, It’s a New Life” conference, where experts from across the country will discuss upcoming changes within the developmentally disabled community. 

An L.A. native, Mark spent 16 years working in Washington, D.C., on behalf of women and low-income families, primarily in relation to immigrant communities. Mark learned, she said, “what it means to create a movement and what it means to support these individuals.”

Her son’s diagnosis brought her family, including her daughter and her husband, Allen Erenbaum, to Los Angeles, where she joined the disability community as an advocate and volunteer. She serves on the board of directors of Disability Rights California, among many others.

The Jewish community in L.A. has helped Mark’s son get a Jewish education, Mark said. She also co-chaired a Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Israel mission exploring programs for adults with disabilities. Mark is especially grateful to mentors — and 2013 Jewish Journal mensches — Dr. Harvey and Connie Lapin.

“They have the same evolution that I had,” Mark said. “Now I can give them advice.”