Finding Our Voices

by Samara Lookatch, Keshet Sibling

Hi everybody, I’m Samara Lookatch. Many of you probably know my sister Emma, a life long Keshet participant. Thank you all for coming tonight to support an amazing organization, one that I care deeply about. 

Keshet has really been like a second home for my sister since a very young age when she started going to JCC Apachi day camp through Keshet. I always loved that my siblings and I could all have a shared experience at day camp together when we were little. Keshet provided Emma the support she needed to go to camp with me and my little brother. 

One amazing memory I have from Camp Apachi is the year that Emma’s Keshet counselor encouraged her to jump off the high dive. Since Emma has no fear and I do, she jumped off fearlessly into the water and Keshet (well her Keshet counselor) was right there to catch her. Most people wouldn’t have encouraged Emma to do something so challenging, but Keshet never lets anyone’s disabilities hold them back. 

As Emma got older, the elementary school we all went to was no longer the right environment for her to succeed. My brother and I were sad to learn that she would be switching schools to attend Keshet day school the following year in 7th grade. Because Emma’s love for Keshet was so strong, I knew they would take great care of her and challenge her learning for the better. That felt comforting to me and my family. Since attending school at Keshet, Emma has learned how to advocate for herself better and express herself in more appropriate ways. She can manage her schedule, which she prides herself on, and she has made social connections with kids her own age. 

Keshet has taught Emma things in and outside the classroom. If Emma had stayed at her previous school, she would’ve never learned the life skills she needs to become an independent adult. These life skills may come easy to me and my brother, but in order for Emma to do more things for herself she needed the opportunity to work on her self-help and life skills on a daily basis. 

I’m so proud of Emma and all her accomplishments, not to mention she’s always having fun at her Keshet activities and has built close relationships with her teachers and helpers. I also know that when Emma is older she will continue to have a great experience being part of the Keshet community. Through volunteering I’ve had the opportunity to work with the adults at Keshet and I feel they truly love it here. 

Keshet not only provides great opportunities for people with disabilities, but it affords students like me the opportunity to give back, practice patience and create beautiful music together. I feel so fortunate that Keshet provided me this opportunity to work with the participants to teach them to sing with 16 Candles tonight. Working with the Keshet students each week and watching their progress and excitement through singing, which is something I love, has given me so much joy. Each student brings something unique to their verse. I’m going to miss seeing them every Thursday. They performed better than I ever could have imagined tonight. I’m so proud of them and all they have overcome to be successful on stage.

So I want to thank you for being here tonight to support Keshet, so my sister and many others can live their lives with dignity, have lots of fun and make friends that feel like family. It warms my heart to know that through Keshet, Emma will always have a home!

Thank you and enjoy the show!

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