Loki Ikari* had not seen Josh Maduell for 11 years until they were reintroduced at Sha’arei Tikvah Summer Shabbat in 2016.
Josh, an Instruction & Support Specialist at JFS, and Loki had attended the same synagogue as children. Shortly after their reconnection, Josh partnered with Loki through Supportive Living Services (SLS). “JFS has helped teach me to cook and to clean and to live independently,” Loki said. “It provides an equal opportunity to everyone.”
Loki has autism and bipolar disorder. He also has a love for “The Simpsons”, inventive cooking and collectibles. “I am just who I am,” he said.
During their weekly visits, Josh helps Loki clean his apartment. They also try new recipes and cook together about once a month. “During cooking, Loki always steers the way and his knowledge of things to cook, and recipes in general, is staggering,” Josh said. One of Loki’s more creative dishes was a fusion of Thanksgiving leftovers and tacos.
Josh’s visits provide more than chore support. “If something is on Loki’s mind during our visit, I am always there to talk with him and help bring him back to a positive place, as well as provide supportive decision making,” Josh said.
During every visit with Josh, Loki refers to him as a friend. It is a title Josh is proud to have, and a connection that’s important for Loki.
“I am always looking for people I can trust and bond with,” Loki said.
That sense of trust and connection is a key element of Sha’arei Tikvah celebrations, like the Summer Shabbat that initially sparked the supportive friendship Loki and Josh now share. In addition to the summer event, Sha’arei Tikvah offers celebrations at Rosh Hashanah, Purim and Chanukah that are open to the community and are for people of all ages and abilities.
“Sha’arei Tikvah is certainly important to the community,” Loki said. “It brought me in touch with my Judaism. I mean, I am not the most religious Jew, but it helps bring balance to my life…. The celebrations are some of the best opportunities I’ve had.”
For some, opportunities for community connection are not always easy to find or create. And without those opportunities, the result can be social isolation and negative mental health outcomes.
The Sha’arei Tikvah celebrations play an additional role for JFS clients. “Most of our Supportive Living Services are one-on-one interactions,” Josh noted. “So, Sha’arei Tikvah is a great opportunity for people to meet others and form bonds of their own. I mean, hey, Sha’arei Tikvah is how Loki and I reconnected.”
Sha’arei Tikvah is designed to welcome anyone in the community and to respect varying social skills and interests. “For Purim, arts and crafts works better for those who are shy and reserved, while dancing is for those who like to let loose more and are outgoing,” Josh explained. “And, there’s never any judgment about what anyone wants to do at the event.”
The reciprocity in the relationships that develop at Sha’arei Tikvah and through the support of JFS services is clear.
“Loki is the prime example of JFS support, because I’ve learned more from him than he’ll ever know,” Josh said. “Loki has taught me that sometimes companionship and simply being there for someone is the best value we can give them.”
*Name changed for privacy.
By Rachel Anne Seymour, JFS Marketing & Communications Coordinator