During lunch and Oneg on Friday, March 23, YOZMA, the Social Action Leadership Initiative at Milken, hosted a siyyum to share its amazing activist work with parents, students and faculty, highlighting each of its groups: Children, Global, Heart Action, Animal Rights, Hunger, Israel, Healing Spirits, U.S.Veterans, and Jewish World Watch.
Each and every group featured at the event had extremely special work to share with all in attendance. YOZMA Children, for example, had planned some major events over the course of this year. The first was a toy drive, at which they collected around 100 toys and approximately $1200. The second program spearheaded by YOZMA Children was Red Hand Day, which promoted awareness of the conditions of children in Africa and India, many of whom are forcefully conscripted.
YOZMA Global works diligently to raise money for global issues, including the recent California fires as well as Hurricane Harvey. As for YOZMA Heart Action, the group truly encompasses its title; its members perform kind work with Holocaust survivors, visiting them at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust as well as through Milken’s L’Dough V’Dough program. What’s more, Heart Action has put together a blog holding the survivors’ amazing stories. The group’s ultimate hope is to share these inspirational works with the entire Milken community.
YOZMA’s fourth social action group is Animal Rights, an amazing group which has worked industriously to raise money and awareness for animal rights, hosting a fundraiser for the NKLA animal shelter as well as a fruit sale to raise awareness for animal abuse in the United States and the world in its entirety. According to Natalie Tabibian ‘21, a committed member of Animal Rights, “YOZMA is our way of giving back to the world.”
Hunger, another one of YOZMA’s groups, has advocated for hunger awareness, primarily partnering with SOVA, a prominent Jewish food pantry in the Los Angeles area. “People don’t realize how big of an issue hunger is, so we are doing our best to name awareness,” says Lauren Shayfer ‘20.
Over the course of the year, YOZMA Israel has also done amazing work, celebrating the State of Israel and raising money for Magen David Adom, Israel’s national ambulance service. According to the organization, it provides “emergency medical first-responders for the state’s 8.6 million people…Through your gift, you’re saving lives,” says Magen David Adom of people who make donations to the cause.
As for YOZMA Healing Spirits, its main objective is to raise people’s spirits, both physically and emotionally. The group accomplishes this invaluable feat through the donation of toys to the children’s hospital. “Our goal is to heal spirits, as our name implies,” says the group. They work assiduously on the Milken campus to bring a smile to students’ faces.
YOZMA Veterans is a new group to YOZMA this year. This group was inspired by seeing homeless veterans who do not receive the medical or psychiatric care that they require. The group has taken the initiative to visit the Veterans Affairs Center, spending quality time with United States veterans. YOZMA’s final group, Jewish World Watch, is a global organization founded by Jews for non-Jews, mainly victims of rapes and genocides in Africa.
The YOZMA Action Fair, which displayed these amazing groups, “is a culmination of all of the social action projects done this year. This is an opportunity for parents, students, and faculty to celebrate YOZMA’s accomplishments,” says YOZMA Children member, Abigail Yadegar ‘20.
Following the Action Fair was an awards ceremony meant to give recognition to the senior members of YOZMA for all of their inspirational work. In the words of Ms. Carolyn Camras, the Assistant Director of Service Learning at Milken, the students are “fine leaders who care about the world around them.” In addition to their awards, each of the 21 graduating YOZMA members received a Milken pop socket, a grip for a mobile device that pops out whenever the device requires a grip or a stand. This is not an arbitrary gift, but a “metaphor for the work you do,” said Ms. Camras. “You have supported those who need the support to stand up.” In addition to the senior awards, peer recognition awards were presented by the chairs of each YOZMA group to a member of their respective groups who they view as a “shining star,” in the words of Ms. Camras. This wonderful program concluded with a speech given by Milken’s Rabbinic Director and the founder of YOZMA at Milken, Rabbi Gordon Bernat-Kunin. According to him, YOZMA is “doing the most godly thing you can do,” as the group “makes our world more trustworthy.”