by Berenice Famili.
A Japanese themed Chanukah celebration took place at Friendship Circle of Los Angeles on Sunday, December 14. The event has always been the highlight for this 12 year old organization that is known for supporting children with special needs along with their families.
The afternoon was filled with excitement. Each room had its own special Japanese themed Chanukah activity. Activities included a make your own sushi station, Chanukah arts and crafts, origami, and storytelling with the author of Jewish Holiday Origami, Joel Stern. Executive board member of The Lev Foundation, Negin Elazari, joyfully watched over the kids during her visit explaining, “The Lev Foundation, loves to come together with the Friendship Circle to bring Chanukah gifts and hang out with these children. This event really brings our community together and helps raise awareness.”
Then the kids, parents, and volunteers gathered together to watch and ultimately participate in a Japanese performance of comedic sumo wrestling and karate techniques. The performance ended with the kids learning how to play the taiko drums.
Following the performance was the Grand Menorah lighting ceremony, where each child had the chance to light a candle, while reciting the blessing. The big smiles on the kids’ faces was a priceless moment and the happiness continue as everyone danced and sang Chanukah songs.
Outside, in Friendship Circle’s state- of- the- art all inclusive playground, were a slew of kids who patiently waited to take a ride on the integration carousel, the only one of its kind in California. Daniel Tamm, the Mayor of LA’s interfaith liaison, stood in awe as he watched the kids gleefully ride the carousel. Tamm noting his delight in attending the event, explained: “This carrousel is just brilliant. I love the whole idea that if you’re in a wheelchair you can come in and you can turn it yourself and feel safe and secure. It’s an ingenious idea. The whole environment throughout this building offers opportunities for kids to be creative and that is just tremendous. To have an environment like this is so precious and what a gift.”
Two volunteers, who were also outside helping out their buddies during the event, shared similar stories about their life-changing experiences at the Friendship Circle. Daniella Hay, a current Freshman at CSUN has been volunteering for several years. She said, “Friendship Circle has really impacted my career path in that I am now looking into becoming a speech therapist and working with children with special needs.”
Adina Rosenberg, a current junior at Vanderbilt University, started volunteering in 2005 as a 6th grader added, “Friendship Circle informed my life and career path. It brought me into the special needs community and informed me of its incredible population. It has led me to eventually choose a career path in the field.”
The festivities ended as each of the kids received a special Chanukah gift. Friendship Circle’s annual Chanukah program was once again an exceptional event that created a sense of unity and camaraderie among children, parents, and volunteers.
To learn more about Friendship Circle, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 310.280.0955