On July 2, 2016 we lost Elie Wiesel, world-renowned survivor of Auschwitz, author, and voice of conscience. A week later, I went to Germany with a group of Boston-area rabbis, sponsored by the Boston German Consulate. While I blogged recently about that trip, I continue to process the experience and also to hear the reflections of my fellow travelers.
There are a number of survivors of the Holocaust and victims of Nazi persecution among the many seniors who live and are cared for throughout HSL.
Last month, the Boston German Consulate hosted a group of twelve Boston-area rabbis on a trip to Germany. The trip was entitled, “Remembrance and Hope.” It began in Munich at the Dachau Concentration Camp and concluded in a suburb of Berlin at a refugee settlement organization, followed by Shabbat in the community.
Deuteronomy 15:7-10 teaches us, "If there is among you a poor man, one of your brethren...you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him, and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be."
This past Sunday, Hebrew SeniorLife opened its hand to 500 Jewish residents in the Greater Boston community with a holiday meal to support celebration of Rosh Hashana. Roughly 75 volunteers of all ages helped pack and deliver meals to homebound seniors and others needing food support.
Yom Kippur is referred to in the book of Leviticus as sabbath of sabbaths, and the double use of the word communicates a completely restful Shabbat, the Shabbat of all Shabbats. Rosh Hashana, the 7 days in between, and Yom Kippur are a time of reflecting on our lives. We literally pause, stop in our tracks, to assess, and recalibrate. The prayers, songs, and time in community are all ways to support our process of deep reflection — and in that time of suspension, we experience what the Torah understands to be a Shabbat shabbaton, a time of complete rest.
The Fourth of July holiday heralds the height of summer — the time to hit the beach and fire up the grill. But it also provides an opportunity to pause and reflect on what is means to be an American—who we really are. The United States is in large part a country of immigrants and the patients at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Boston reflect the rich diversity of the immigrant experience.
As the admissions counselor for Assisted Living at NewBridge on the Charles, I frequently talk to families of seniors about the advantages of an assisted living lifestyle. While supports like meal preparation, medication reminders and bathing and dressing help can be brought into a senior’s home, assisted living communities offer residents the added benefit of living among a community of peers and caring staff members. I’ve seen seniors not only gain the physical care they need but also regain access to the human connections that give life meaning and purpose. Here are some interesting facts about how even minimal daily social contact can improve an elder’s health:
For many Jewish elders, fasting on Yom Kippur is a religious and cultural imperative as well as a life-long tradition. In fact, many seniors who may not be traditional in other ways continue the practice of abstaining from all food on this holiest day of the Jewish year, the Day of Atonement.
But is it safe for seniors to fast? And what does Judaism have to say for those whose health issues may make fasting dangerous?
Over the summer, the Boston Globe featured the incredible story of Rabbi Joel Baron, a retired publisher of two leading medical journals, who after becoming the oldest newly ordained rabbi in North America now serves as a chaplain with Hebrew SeniorLife Hospice Care. Growing up in Cleveland in the 1950s, Baron had considered becoming a rabbi but felt parental pressure to pursue a more practical path.
Last year, just around this time, I started laughing to myself as I drove to my job as a marketing specialist for Assisted Living at NewBridge on the Charles, part of Hebrew SeniorLife’s continuing care retirement community just outside of Boston in Dedham, MA. Halloween had recently passed, and as my thoughts turned to Thanksgiving, I remembered a calendar quirk I had first noticed on the back page of a Jewish calendar 2013 distributed by Combined Jewish Philanthropies. In 2013, the first day of Hanukkah would fall on Thanksgiving Day!
At Hebrew SeniorLife we recognize that for many of the seniors we serve, a sense of spiritual wellbeing is just as important to transforming the experience of aging as providing good medical care and innovative supportive living communities. As the Director of Religious Services, I work with a team that is devoted to providing spiritual support to our residents, resident families, and staff that responds to a broad spectrum of secular and religious traditions.