I joined over a hundred volunteers who streamed into Hebrew SeniorLife’s Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Roslindale on a cold, damp and grey Sunday morning December 2 to distribute Chanukah Mitzvah bags to over 500 seniors in the greater Boston area. The atmosphere inside the building was the opposite of the day outside: warm, bustling, smelling tantalizingly of Sunday dinner.
Orchestrating the scene of HSL employees and volunteers from the community was Shani Traum, of HSL’s Development Department, who has organized these mitzvahs or “good deeds” three times per year since 2007 including this year’s Chanukah Mitzvah Day for the holiday beginning at sunset Saturday, December 8. Shani estimated that HSL has delivered over 14,000 meals since 2004 when the Holiday Mitzvah program started. “It’s about making a connection through an act of kindness to the senior community who can live in an insular world,” Shani said. She continued, “I think the volunteers enjoy the giving back just as much. We have many of the same families and friends who come back each year to do this together for the holidays.”
In Hebrew SeniorLife’s subsidized housing for seniors, a community located at 112 Centre Street in Brookline, I delivered to residents who spoke many languages but all responded with wide smiles of gratitude that said it all. Behind each door was a life and a world I was invited into. I explained the package contained matzoh ball soup, a roast beef dinner, potato latkes, applesauce, chocolates and a dreidel. The four-sided spinning top many of them played with as children on Chanukah sometimes helped me start a conversation with them about this holiday’s memories and meaning for them.
The meaning of Chanukah as the Festival of Light was apparent in the shining faces of the HSL employees and community volunteers who came together on a grey December morning to shed light and love, as the spirit of all the holidays we celebrate this time of year remind us to do. For me the significance of this day was also about finding personal meaning in giving back and in cultivating gratitude for my own life’s good fortune.
You can bring light into darkness this holiday season and through the dark winter months we’re facing when you visit an older adult who finds it difficult to get out at this time of year. You’ll see the light reflected back in their faces as I did.
Hebrew SeniorLife’s Mitzvah Program is supported by the Adam & Matan Adelson Multigenerational Program.