(JTA) — A 19-year-old Jewish student at the University of Pennsylvania has been missing from his parents’ Southern California home, where he was spending winter break, for more than five days.
Blaze Bernstein left his parents’ home in Lake Forest, in Orange County, on Tuesday to visit a friend at a local park.
His mother, Jeanne Pepper Bernstein, in an interview published Monday in the Los Angeles Times sent a message pleading with him to come home.
“If there’s any way you can come home, whatever has happened, wherever you’ve been, whoever you’ve talked to — it doesn’t matter,” she said. “We love you so much that we would give up everything we have to have you back.”
The friend whom Bernstein met Tuesday evening at Borrego Park told the Orange County Sheriff’s Department that he last saw Bernstein at about 11 p.m. He said that when he returned from going to the bathroom, Bernstein was gone.
Bernstein did not take his his keys, wallet, credit cards and eyeglasses when he left his parents’ house to meet the friend, and did not say goodbye, his father told the Los Angeles Times.
Bernstein was scheduled to fly back to college on Sunday.
The Sheriff’s Department said the friend is only a witness, not a suspect, according to the Times.
Department investigators reportedly are “actively following leads” to locate the teen, while friends and family are assisting in the search by using drones to canvass the area. A cellphone that Bernstein had with him, lent to him by a family member for his vacation, had stopped receiving calls and a location device on the phone stopped working shortly after he disappeared.
A Facebook page was set up to help find the teen and keep people updated about the search.