When you hear a happy laugh just slightly louder than average, you may safely guess that it comes from Yael Landa, the Director of the Right Action Gambling Program, and perhaps the most animated person at Beit T’Shuvah.
Her arrival at Beit T’Shuvah was – like so many things – largely a matter of luck and timing. Yael moved from Israel to New York as a student in 2001, having satisfied her two year military conscription in the Israeli Air Force (which sounds more frightening than it was; she was a docent at the Air Force museum). Her husband is a film composer, and in 2010, the couple picked up and left New York for Los Angeles. “I was happily working for the Brooklyn Mental Health Court, but we decided to move to further his career,” she says.
Almost immediately, she found BTS. “I found a notice online for a Jewish rehab, something I had never heard of,” Yael recounts. “I called and Adam Mindel [formerly of Beit T’Shuvah] told me that there were no positions open then, but that if I was interested in Beit T’Shuvah, I should come to Friday night services.” Yael recalls that it was a sad Friday night, just after a resident had passed away. “Although the mood was somber, I saw a community coming together. I saw people providing loving support to one another. It was sad but still very special.” Impressed, she followed up with Adam and learned that someone had just left – there was an opening. “Amazingly, I was employed just three weeks after we got to L.A.,” she laughs, “but it took me a while to acclimate to Beit T’Shuvah’s positive atmosphere after the mental health court!”
Yael, who has a master’s degree in forensic psychology, spent three years as a counselor before she was tapped to head the fledgling gambling program. “I came back from maternity leave to find that I had been promoted!” she laughs. Initially in partnership with UCLA, and partially funded by the California Department of Public Health, Yael and her team created a full gambling treatment program. “My father was both an alcoholic and a gambler, so I have personal experience with both addictions,” she says.
And Yael brings joy to her neighbors at Creative Matters. In addition to her unflagging exuberance, she is often looking for unusual things. What sort of things, you ask? A sheet with which to make a ghost costume for Purim (she got a white tee shirt, which worked). A picture frame. Mustard. Office equipment. Her levity and the breadth of her various needs never fail to please those around her. As Yael explains, “I have an accent, am an oddball and have no filter. We help people in horrible situations; I have to bring in some humor or this would be intolerably painful.”
For more information about Beit T’Shuvah’s Right Action Gambling program, click here.