Trek West #1: Volunteering in Los Angeles

It’s Or, James, Hayley and Lisa here again, for your third trip update! Shavuah tov from the City of Angels!

When you last heard from us we were on our way to Los Angeles, and now we are on our way out. We traveled west along the historic Route 66, through the old time train stop of Barstow and on to Los Angeles. We arrived along the thriving Jewish community along Pico Boulevard where kosher lunch was not hard to find. From there, we set off on a tour of the Museum of Tolerance, exploring the deeply profound and sobering experiences of Jews and other oppressed during the Holocaust and beyond into modernity.


The group learned a great deal, gaining a framework of factual knowledge, and discussing what being tolerant and free of prejudice truly means. From there, we ventured to our lodging at American Jewish University in the heart of the famed Bel-Air, where we enjoyed another kosher dinner. Then, the group got the true LA experience, with free time at The Grove where we stumbled upon a free concert and a number of celebrities amidst the gorgeous weather and bustling shops.

Thursday was a day for volunteering and the group quickly took to the task. Half the group spent their morning at the Midnight Mission in the heart of one of LA’s most disadvantaged areas, feeding the homeless and learning the value of service for the less fortunate. The other half spent their morning at the California Hospital Medical Center that services much of the same area. Their job was to sort and organize donated clothing for those patients that come into the hospital without even sufficient clothes on their backs. Additionally, the group constructed a number of crafts to go with children’s meals to brighten what can be a bleak experience.

After a quick bus lunch, the group visited a Jewish nursing home and quickly took to the elderly occupants, hearing stories, keeping them company, and running one of the most popular games of Bingo that they had seen a long time. From there, we made a brief stop at the La Brea Tar Pits where the group saw and learned about ancient animals and dinosaurs frozen in time in the heart of LA. Dinner was family style, kosher, Chinese food, a staple of LA living. From there, the group filled up a Comedy Sportz improv show, sharing laughs, having a great time, and generally trying to out-comedy the comedians.

Friday began with more volunteering, this time at the Los Angeles food Bank, sorting and boxing donated foods to be delivered to hungry people in the area. The group was working like a well-oiled machine by the end and had gone through over 10,000 pounds of food. The bus took us up from there to the Griffith Park Observatory where we able to snap some classic shots of the cityscape and the famous Hollywood sign. From there, the group ventured through the worst of LA , Friday afternoon traffic to Venice beach, the place where California stereotypes are born, for free-time. The beach could not have been nicer and Venice was full of its usual crazy characters from street performers to the gym rats at Muscle Beach. From there, the group returned to AJU for Friday night dinner as a group.

Shabbat was spent relaxing on campus for all but a couple of hours of Saturday morning capture the flag. We also celebrated a birthday for a double simcha! That night we headed to Santa Monica pier after Havdallah to experience the beach, the rides, the shows, and of course one-of-a-kind acts like rock ‘n roll Jesus. We are headed for Yosemite, one of the world’s great natural beauties. We’re having a great time and will write again of more adventures soon!

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