November 18, 2011

This past week for me has been filled with emotional highs and lows, not dissimilar to our next Torah portion, Chaye Sara (ironically named “Life of Sarah”), in which Sarah dies at age 127, Abraham’s servant, Eliezer, is dispatched to find a wife for Isaac and finds Rebecca, and the two marry, and then Abraham dies at age 175.

Saturday night was the Etta Israel Center’s 18th Annual Gala Dinner at the Peterson Automotive Museum and with the backdrop of gleaming Harleys and the Batmobile, community supporters, parents of children with developmental disabilities and a large contingent of teens/adults with developmental disabilities nibbled on kosher sushi and other buffet items.

Named in honor of Mrs. Etta Israel who taught Orthodox Jewish children with special needs, the non-profit organization was founded in 1993 and operates educational, residential and social/recreational programs including the only Jewish group homes in Los Angeles County.

Honorees were Lynn and David Mayer, parents of a young adult, Avremel, who now lives in lives in one of those group homes, and Susan North Gilboa, a pioneer and leader in Jewish special education, with her newest program the OurSpace Collaboration between Valley Beth Shalom and Temple Aliyah. On a personal note, our son Danny is crazy about their B’yachad Youth Bet Group, and is looking forward to hearing the UCLA 8-clap this Sunday at the Women’s Volleyball game they are attending.

On Monday, I was at the SRO funeral of Hal Benveniste, the Sephardic father of my best childhood friend in La Mirada and it was like saying farewell to well-loved uncle.
Hal worked on the production side of the Los Angeles Times for 30-some years, and edited many community newsletters. He was the first person to publish my writing, at age 12, a review of the Rothschilds play at the Ahmanson, in the Temple Beth Ohr newsletter, and had spent his retirement years deeply involved with the La Habra Kiwanis Club, working most recently on fundraising for computers in special education classrooms.

Then on Wednesday, I got a last-minute opportunity to attend the National Philanthropy Day lunch hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. This annual event is kind of like the Oscars of the non-profit world with volunteers, corporations and non-profits all receiving various awards. One of the best moments for me was when Peggy Cherng, founder of the Panda Restaurants with her husband, spoke in her heavily-accented English about the amazing opportunities in the United States, and that she is still “schlepping” around town.

And tonight was the inaugural Franklin D. Roosevelt dinner for the Disability Rights Legal Center (DRLC) with its inspiring message of embracing diversity and inclusion, and using the power of the law to eliminate discrimination and other legal barriers for people with disabilities. Dr. Fran Kaufman, the preeminent CHLA pediatric endocrinologist who literally wrote the book linking diabetes and childhood obesity, was the recipient of the Charles D. Siegal President’s Award, and talked about an upcoming California Supreme Court Case regarding the rights of children with diabetes at public schools.

So some tears, many smiles, and way too many carbs. Next on the schedule: a long Shabbat nap….

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