Community News

Inclusion: Jojo and his Favorite Place

This post is part of a series written in recognition of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month by members of our community with a disability describing ways they feel included in our community.

I am Joseph.  I have a great sense of humor. I love music and I love movies. I have special needs. I am nonverbal (but I love to talk using my hands) and have difficulty walking. But every Sunday, I go to Hebrew school at the Friendship Circle where I feel included. I have been attending Friendship Circle programs since I was five years old. I always feel loved and appreciated for who I am when I am there. I love when Rabbi Michy says “Jojo is in the house.” He always makes me feel like I am a superstar.

One of the things I like most about the Friendship Circle is the teen volunteers.  When I was younger, I always looked up to them. When I would see them around my neighborhood, they would always welcome me and say “Hi, Jojo” to make me feel special. Now I am 17 and the volunteers are my peers. They are always so kind and warm to me and make me feel like I have friends. I look forward to seeing them every week. I love celebrating my birthday at the Friendship Circle Birthday Bash with all my friends. The holiday programs make the holidays that much more special for me and my family.

I know I drive my parents a bit crazy all week talking about how I am going to go the Friendship Circle on Sunday. But Mom and Dad know that it is my favorite place and that I just can’t wait to hang out with my buddies again.

JoJo is 17 years old and has been an active participant of Friendship Circle Los Angeles for the past 12 years. When not attending one of their programs, he can be found enjoying an Uncle Moishy video or hanging out with his incredible family.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles believes that everyone in our community should have the opportunity to experience and celebrate our shared values, history and traditions. Making Jewish life more accessible for all is one of our top priorities, which is why we are part of a national effort to raise awareness about members of the Jewish community with disabilities. Go to www.JewishLA.org/Inclusion for more information.