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Founded in 2010, Hand in Hand is an inclusive program with the mission of creating social connections between people of all abilities and all ages.  Through a variety of in-person and remote activities and experiences, our participants are able to connect with others, as we learn, grow and have fun together, creating lifelong memories and friendships.


We are excited to create new ways to bring our community together, as we continue to expand both our in-person, virtual and online program options.  We hope you will join our growing Hand in Hand community. 

Meet the Hand in Hand Team

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Janet Hirsch Ettenger


Janet Hirsch Ettenger has worked in maternal health for over 30 years, as a nurse and childbirth educator, and for the past 17 years as a birth doula supporting families through their pregnancy, birth and early parenting journey.


Janet has been involved in community service since moving to Malibu in 1995 and is co-founder of the Malibu Thanksgiving Dinner for Labor Exchange families, begun in 1997. She also works with the B’nai Mitzvah program at Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue, helping Bar and Bar Mitzvah students develop their community service projects.


Together with Rabbi Cantor Marcelo Gindlin and Lisa Szilagyi, Janet creates weekly programming for Hand in Hand, and supports the Peer Volunteer program. Being a part of Hand in Hand is an honor and a highlight of Janet’s life.


Rabbi Cantor Marcelo Gindlin


Rabbi Cantor Marcelo was ordained in 2022 as a rabbi and got an MA in rabbinic studies from the Academy for Jewish Religion-CA. He holds a BA in Music Therapy from the Universidad Del Salvador, Buenos Aires, and an MA in Music Therapy from The California University FCE. Certified as Hazzan and Ba’al Tefillah from the Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano, he has served as the full-time Cantor at the Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue since 2000. He is a member of the Cantors Assembly of America, and serves on their Executive Board. Marcelo is also an associate member of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association.

In 2010 his dream came to fruition, when he created the Hand in Hand program, along with Lisa Szilagyi and Janet Hirsch-Ettenger. Marcelo won “Music Educator of the Year Award” from the Malibu Friends of Music, “The Malibu Citizen of the Year Award” in 2013, and several awards for liturgical compositions that have since been published. He co-authored two children’s books, presented scholarly papers in Music Therapy and autism at international conferences. Marcelo has extensive experience as a choir director, recording artist, and international performer. Raised in Buenos Aires, he is fluent in Spanish, Hebrew, English, and Yiddish.

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Lisa Szilagyi


Lisa is the mother of a daughter, Emily, who

is developmentally disabled young adult. Lisa is a
credentialed Special Education Teacher, who
has worked primarily with teens and young adults with moderate to severe disabilities. Lisa taught the Life Skills class at Malibu High school for over 17 years, bringing a Person-Centered approach to working with students with disabilities. Lisa helped start the Best Buddies Club at Malibu High in 2002.

In 2010, Lisa collaborated with a group of parents to create the Aurelia Foundation-Creative Steps Adult program, with the goal of providing a quality day program to serve the needs of adults with disabilities, once they have left the school system.

Also in 2010, Lisa helped to co-found Hand in Hand, a social skills inclusion program at the Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue. In 2011, Lisa was honored to be a recipient of The Malibu Times Citizens of the Year Dolphin Award, for her work with special needs students in the Malibu area.

A Community Service Program from the Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue

Established in Malibu, California in 1984, MJC&S is home to a thriving and engaged Reconstructionist Jewish community. 


We celebrate Judaism that is casual yet complete, spiritual yet grounded in tradition, and inclusive of all families and lifestyles.

In addition to financial support from its membership, MJC&S provides administrative support and facilities to Hand in Hand.


Annual Grants Provided by:

Hand in Hand Program
Hand in Hand 2021
Hand in Hand 2019
HAND IN HAND 2015-2016

The Hand in Hand Story

Your Contribution and the Future of Hand in Hand

Since Hand in Hand launched in Fall 2010, we have seen a strong and creative program take flight. We continue to focus on expanding our program to serve individuals of all ages and abilities, as well as their families.  In addition, we are developing a secondary program with a social emphasis tailored specifically for children and young adults who have less severe special needs, but their own unique challenges.  


Your contribution to Hand in Hand will ensure that we can continue to offer this unique, free program to individuals with disabilities and their families, for years to come. Funds collected will go towards overhead expenses for running the program and can be directed as desired.

In The News

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