Beverly Hills, CA – ETTA’s 20th Annual Gala, held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Tuesday December 17, drew over 400 members of the Los Angeles community to support ETTA’s work on behalf of Jewish adults with special needs.
ETTA, which merged with OHEL Children’s and Family Services last year, is the premier resource for residential services for Jewish individuals with disabilities on the West Coast, and also provides many other services to support people with special needs: life skills training, job coaching, social events, a day program, a summer program, and educational programs. The vision of ETTA is an inclusive, participatory community of people with and without special needs, succeeding and growing together.
This year’s banquet was particularly meaningful as it marked ETTA’s 20th Anniversary. ETTA was founded in 1993 as the realization of retired LAUSD special education teacher Mrs. Etta Israel’s dream. Her modest estate was dedicated to founding ETTA, which in the past 20 years has become a beacon of hope for people with disabilities and the families who love them.
ETTA’s work was celebrated and appreciated by all at the Gala, including the ETTA-OHEL Board and ETTA Advisory Board. Many OHEL board members and executive staff were there as well, as were many elected officials, including State Controller John Chiang, Vice Chair of the California Democratic Party Eric Bauman, Assemblymember Richard Bloom, District 50, and Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, District 46, who were welcomed by attorney Sam Yebri, Chair of ETTA’s Government Relations Group.
An incredible program, emceed by comedian Mark Schiff, featured the many different aspects of ETTA.
ETTA’s Executive Director, Dr. Michael Held, explained the organization’s current focus: a plan called “200 by 2020” authored together with ETTA’s Visionary Award recipient Michael Baruch. Due to tremendous need, ETTA’s goal is to house, or support in various housing arrangements, 200 individuals with disabilities by the year 2020. Towards that end, Dr. Held was proud to announce the opening of ETTA’s 5th home – and first on the Westside – called Bedford House. This house is not a group home but rather a privately-run home for high-functioning women who still need some support.
Liebe and Ivor Geft were the evening’s recipients of the ETTA Champions Award. Liebe Geft is the Director of the Museum of Tolerance, which is the educational arm of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Ivor is a renowned cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and teaches many Torah classes in the Los Angeles area. “What is so meaningful about supporting ETTA,” noted Liebe Geft, “is that it enables and ennobles these individuals with special needs to give to others, which is our purpose in life.”
Michelle Wolf, co-founder of HaMercaz and currently Transitions Project Coordinator for Bet Tzedek Legal Services, received the Professional Leadership Award for her 25 years of advocacy and innovation in the field, both for her own son Danny and for countless others. Michelle was thrilled – and moved – by a surprise appearance and introduction from her daughter Rachel, whom ETTA flew out from New York.
One highlight of the evening was a speech from Moshe Bienenfeld, a young man with autism who was honored with ETTA’s Lazare, z”l, and Moselle Hendeles Young Leadership Award. Moshe reminded everyone that those with challenges are not “disabled” but rather “differently abled,” and shared his pride in being a spokesperson for individuals with autism.
The evening wrapped up with Michael Baruch, founder of Baruch Enterprises, receiving ETTA’s Visionary Award for his tireless work on behalf of the organization. “What could be more important than giving a home to people who need a home?” Baruch asked the audience. “You all can help our vision to provide homes to all the people who are in need.”
ETTA, founded in 1993 in Los Angeles, California, serves people with developmental disabilities and their families, and is one of the premier providers of such services on the West Coast. ETTA’s mission is to help people with developmental disabilities, and the families who love them, to live fully enriched and active lives as members of the Los Angeles Jewish community.
View Gala Highlight Reel and speeches at: https://www.youtube.com/user/