Special Needs Kids, Families Invited to Hanukkah Bowl

By Abby Scalf 

December 18, 2008

As Jews observe Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, Rabbi Zelik Moscowitz invites families to come celebrate the holiday with friends.

The Friendship Circle invites families who have children with special needs to its Hanukkah Bowl from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 22, at the Brunswick Zone, 10 S. Waukegan Road, Deerfield.

Rabbi Zelik Moscowitz said the Friendship Circle is a Jewish-based organization that serves individuals ranging from 6 years old through adulthood who have physical and mental disabilities. Operating chapters in 17 countries around the world, its goal is to bring friendship to children with special needs.

Moscowitz was introduced to Friendship Circle volunteering as a high school student in New York. Three years ago when he and wife Bassie moved back to Illinois, they wanted to open a chapter, which became the Stuart I. Raskas Friendship Circle of Illinois.

"Having been born and raised in Chicago, it was our dream to bring the program and see it flourish here as well," he said.

Children enjoy weekly visits from their buddies, who are high school student volunteers, and special events year round. As a volunteer, Moscowitz remembers the impact he made on a child's life.

GE5W0002.JPG"The way he perceived it, I meant the world to him, and we've seen it time and time again with those involved in Friendship Circle," he said.

For Teri Steinberg, who joined for her son, Billy, 14, who has autism, the Friendship Circle is more than a holiday gathering. As a parent of a child with autism, seeing Billy join activities such as martial arts and spend time with his buddy not only makes him happy but also gives her support as Billy handles what is an invisible disease to outsiders.

"With the support from the Friendship Circle, we all get to be strength to each other," said Steinberg of Highland Park. "And it is fun. We have a lot of fun."

The Hanukkah Bowl event will include Hanukkah sand art, dreidel games and holiday foods including latkes, jelly doughnuts and chocolate gelt. Families also will create a bowling pin menorah to be lit to culminate the event. Moscowitz wants families to enjoy a night without judgment as well as the warmth of the holiday with family and community.GE5W0016.JPG

"From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. he will be smiling from ear to ear," Steinberg said.

To attend, contact Moscowitz at (847) 833-6843 or visit the Web site www.FCIL.org.