This past Sunday, over 150 adults with special needs, caregivers, and supportive members of our community gathered for a party to kick off the launch of our Federation’s new Los Angeles Jewish Abilities Center (LAJAC)! Outside at Gottlieb Park, attendees were welcomed into a festive and inclusive environment for people of all ages and abilities. A perfect example of LAJAC’s vision-turned-reality — our partners’ activities were led by adults with special needs. OurSpace facilitated a community mosaic arts project; Chaverim ran a bingo game; Zooz Fitness ran fitness routines; ETTA’s adults with special needs, trained through a grant from DWP, facilitated interactive water and power conservation demonstrations; and Shemesh Organic Farm had guests mix their own drinks using a bike blender. On top of all of that, artists with special needs from The Miracle Project gave moving live performances, and attendees were given an in-depth explanation of everything LAJAC has to offer.
LAJAC is first and foremost a platform to provide adults with special needs — and their caregivers — opportunities that promote self-advocacy, independence, accessibility to practical resources and better coordination between service providers. This one-stop-shop community resource has three components: a virtual resource center (website) that was unveiled at the kickoff party, case management services, and the convening of community partners (to make it easier for clients to access the supports that are available).
The user-friendly LAJAC virtual resource center offers two paths for accessing information — one for adults who are advocating for themselves, and one for parents and caregivers. Each path serves as a how-to guide and offers 80 resources and 10 fillable/printable forms to help guide the decision-making process. It also directs clients to employment, educational, and social opportunities, promotes self-advocacy and independence, and answers questions about rights and responsibilities. Best of all, it’s available online 24-7.
Les Bider, Federation’s Chairman of the Board, emceed the event and spoke, and Lynn Bider, Federation’s Chair of Caring for Jews in Need, offered her remarks — both of them bringing their warmth and energy to the day. The enthusiasm in the crowd was palpable as self-advocates, their parents, and professionals realized just how much LAJAC would enhance their lives by offering easy access to a wealth of resources and increasing opportunities for independence.
The crowd was also excited to meet Steve Zimmer, LAUSD Board Member and graduate of the Federation’s New Leaders Project (NLP). In his address to the group, he thanked and saluted our Federation and partners for the incredible work being done to make our community more inclusive. He linked both his work at LAUSD and an excerpt from a recent weekly Torah portion to the importance of inclusion — he emphasized that we are only a community when we make sure no one is left behind.
“It was a wonderful day and great opportunity for our community to get a real sense of what we’re already doing for adults with special needs and the potential for so much more,” said Lori Klein, Senior Vice President, Caring for Jews in Need. “It was exciting to see so many of the activities facilitated by adults with special needs, demonstrating that this is really a collective effort.”
Our Federation is proud to bring our community one step closer to widespread inclusion and to offer LAJAC as a premier resource center for adults with special needs.
For more information about LAJAC, please contact Michelle Resnick, Director of LAJAC, at (323) 761-8105 or MResnick@JewishLA.org.