From Andrea Horowitz:
This morning we boarded the bus to leave “Fabulous” Las Vegas. We continued our journey as we headed to Los Angeles. Halfway to LA we stopped at the 50s diner. It was amazing! They had everything from milkshakes to BBQ sandwiches. It was great fun.
We made it from sea to shining sea!
After lunch, in order to prepare ourselves for Los Angeles, we watched the movie, “American History X”. It was a very impactful movie that showed no matter what, you can turn your life around. It was one of the most powerful movies I’ve ever seen. Although it was extremely hard to watch, the life long lessons made it worthwhile.
Our first stop in Los Angeles was a park where Billy led a discussion on the theme of our stay in Los Angeles. We then went to the Museum of Tolerance. It was, for me, the most interesting museum by far! It addressed all sorts of prejudice and intolerance. Not only did I learn about the acts of discrimination in the past, but I also learned a lot more about the Holocaust. I now have a new found appreciation for the Jewish culture and am so proud to be Jewish. After the Holocaust exhibit, we watched a short film on current genocide going on in the Sudan, Bosnia, and Rwanda. We as Jews say “Never Again” – but we know what is going on but we are letting it happen again. Something must be done. I want to make a difference! Not only that, but I feel the need to make a change in the world.
On a lighter note, after the Museum we went into the Jewish section of Los Angeles and went to eat at Nathans Hotdogs for some great kosher hot dogs. It was some of the best food we have had. We left incredibly full and continued to the Santa Monica Piers for some fun at an old time amusement park. We just ran around and rode every ride at least twice. The pier overlooked the Pacific Ocean and I could have stayed all night looking at the ocean. It was breath taking. We got back on the bus exhausted from an incredible day.
Today we started our day by sitting in Los Angeles traffic as we made our way to Rodeo Drive. We walked around Beverly Hills to get a sense of how the rich and famous live. After a quick lunch we went to Hollywood where we saw the walk of fame and the handprints and footprints of movie stars. There was so much activity going on as they were preparing for the ESPN ESPY awards that night.
From Hollywood we drove through some streets with multimillion dollar mansions on our way to the center of South Central L.A. We saw how power and wealth can be so unequal within a 5-mile radius from Beverly Hills to South Central. Carlton, our bus driver, told us about his life of growing up in South Central and living there through the Rodney King riots. We also saw how a gated community can keep people out (Beverly Hills) and keep people in (South Central.)
After that we went to Venice Beach. It is one of the most colorful and exciting places I have ever been. We got in groups of 8 and got a video camera and then walked the boardwalk to interview people on their political views. I have never heard anyone like the two men my group interviewed before in my life. They were dripping with wisdom; culture, history and each person had a different story. I cannot wait to go back!
After Venice Beach we went to Beit Teshuvah. It’s a synagogue for recovering addicts. It is a 6-month program where the patients live in the synagogue and work with all types of therapists. We had three residents speak with us – Shoshana, Doug and Scott. They were addicted to everything from heroin, crack and alcohol. Each grew up a nice Jewish teen but became addicts. These people opened themselves up to us by telling their stories. It was like nothing I have heard before, despite all the drug education I have received.
It’s people like Doug, Shoshana and Scott that prevent teens from doing drugs because they relate to us as teens and are not standing in front of us wearing suits and preaching. Not only did we learn about drugs, we learned how to express ourselves, talk about our feelings, and open up to each other. Tonight we definitely got closer and it was the prefect end to a perfect day.
Our whole theme for Los Angeles was power. Who has it, Who doesn’t, How do you get it, what happens if people don’t have access to it and how do we as Jewish teens harness power and use it for good –to change our community and our world. I learned that power lies within us. No matter where we are – Los Angeles, Beit Teshuvah, and Montgomery, Alabama – we have the power and we must do something with it for the good of the world.