Sunday, February 28, 2021

Los Angeles Orthodox Jewish Teens Create 50 Care Packages for Nurses Fighting COVID-19

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Wanting to thank medical workers at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center for their hard work and selflessness during the pandemic, a group of 16-year-old boys from Valley Torah High School assembled and delivered 50 care packages that included energy drinks, snacks, confetti and handwritten “thank-you” notes.

The plan was the brainchild of David Kerendian, who is entering his junior year. At Valley Torah High, David is the president of the Chesed Club, where he and his fellow members participate in acts of community service, regularly visiting hospitals and senior-citizen homes. 

“[Pre-quarantine], I would be able to run all my clubs, have meetings, speak to many people, go out after school, connect with family and visit my little brother I volunteer with at Chai Lifeline,” David told the Journal in a phone interview. “But when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, all of that stopped abruptly … Life went from being so interactive and social to being so excluded and [antisocial].”

That’s when he approached seven of his Chesed club peers with the idea of the care packages and notes. Each letter, David said, was unique and personalized. They wrote a combination of serious, heartfelt and playful messages, which also included jokes and poems. 

One of the cards read: “Roses are red, Violets are blue. To be honest, I don’t know any poems, but I really want to say THANK YOU!!! Really, thank you so much for all the amazing work you do and I hope you enjoy this small package.”

“[I wanted] to make [the staff] feel like they’re being seen, like they’re being noticed,” David said, adding he hoped that others would be inspired by his idea. 

“Despite who you are, where you come from, what your age is or how many resources you have, any little thing can count to bring some goodness, some light into a room of darkness — so to speak. You don’t necessarily need to be a politician or someone with crazy resources. You can really be a teenager living at home, living your everyday life [who does] little acts of kindness; little acts in your community that could really go a long way.”

Raised in an Orthodox home, David said he had an “innate drive” to give back to his community. “The Jewish nation is always so focused on helping others, doing tzedakah and [giving money] to the poor,” he said. “The [medical workers] out there are sacrificing so much to save me and to save others, that this sense of community and this urge to give back — which I think was built into me because of my Jewish background — kicked in.”

David got in touch with the hospital’s patient experience specialist Kendrick Balba, who personally delivered the care packages to the nurses at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana. 

“You don’t necessarily need to be a politician or someone with crazy resources. You can really be a teenager living at home [who does] little acts of kindness.” — David Kerendian

“David taking initiative and wanting to give back really was heartwarming for not only myself but our staff,” Balba wrote in an email to the Journal. “His donation brought a lot of smiles and joy as it made their day …. Getting a call from him and hearing how he wants to give back to his community really spoke volumes about his character. We are really appreciative that he was thinking about us during this time.” 

Balba added, “Acts of kindness instill hope in medical workers because heartfelt thanks from the community and each other remind us that we are not alone in this period of uncertainty. Receiving all these generous donations from businesses and families remind us, too, that they are rooting for us, and we are all in this together.”

To make a donation, contact Pam Egendorfer at (818) 708-5176 or visit the website.

Melissa Simon is a former Journal summer intern. 

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