Our first day in LA!

Reflections on our first day in L.A.

We’ve finished our first complete day in beautiful Los Angeles. It was pretty exhausting and exhilarating. We started our day off at about 8, bustling around in our kitchen space here at the American Jewish University getting breakfast and preparing lunch. Then, we left on our trusty school-bus to East Hollywood, got to the headquarters of L.A. Family Housing at about 9. This basically was a ride from beautiful, fairly well-off and maintained Bel Air to an area of L.A. which is not so nice, showing the enormous economic social stratification in this American city.

L.A. Family Housing: What an amazing place! You walk in through the gates and can instantly feel the great sense of community there. Community was something we discussed today, talking about what communities we are a part of, why they’re important for us, and what it means for us to be part of a Jewish community. A sense of community is something so harder to engender, but once you found it, you know it is honest and true and all that good stuff. You know that you can be supported no matter which way and in whatever state you are in. It is a release. So I was really taken aback by how great a community L.A. Family Housing was. The people that work there who we got to talk to really felt a commitment to helping homeless people rebuild their lives, starting with getting shelter and then moving on to dealing with other issues in those peoples’ lives. They look at the people going through L.A. Family Housing as individuals who happen to have become homeless; their homelessness is not what defines them. There are so compassionate and driven in their community building there.

We met Cecilia who is going to be our volunteer coordinator. We also got the honor of meeting Stephanie, the executive director of L.A. Family Housing and a board member of Jewish FundS for Justice. They gave us a lot of insights into the world of homelessness, especially as it exists in L.A. – often called the American capital of homelessness. It might be hard to see because of the community economic stratification there but it definitely exists. Politicians in America don’t really focus on it so much because it’s not one of those “sexy” issues which have straight-forward solutions. We also learned a whole lot more about this important issue. Stephanie ended her talk about homelessness and L.A. Family Housing with a quote from the Mishnah which states (I’m paraphrasing) “you are not obligated to finish the task, but you are not free to just ignore it.” We here demonstrating here on A.S.B. it is not acceptable to ignore such dire issues of social justice. I hope everyone else can heed this advice, too.

Following this discussion we took a tour at Family Housing, seeing the facilities such as the family housing complex and the singles housing complex. After that, we moved onto our project for the day which was putting together Mother’s Day gift packages for the moms in the L.A. Family Housing community. We made about 500 gift bags. It was pretty fun!

Then, after lunch, we went off to Hazeltine Elementary School. We met with Diana from L.A.’s Best, an after-school youth program, and she talked to us about what they do and what we are going to be doing with them the next week. We got to interact some with the kids outside and that was a blast. Although some of us were pretty nervous of interacting with kids, it went smoothly for all of us. They are just adorable children. Then we started planning the lesson plans we are going to give over the next few days with the children. We read them a book, talk about it, and plan an activity based on something in the book. Reading children’s book is quite the fun. We’re excited about giving our “Kidz Lit” lessons to the third through fifth graders.

Then we left Hazeltine at 5, came back to AJU, had dinner, and followed that with a very insightful reflection session on the day and on social justice/Judaism in general. It was a long day, but we all got so much out of it and can’t wait to do it all again tomorrow!

Also,to note: Our formal name is Los Macabitos. Jon Wood is now going by Jon Maple Walnut Wood. Also, we love Andrea and Mara who are are J.F.S.J. leaders!!!

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