Posted by Sue Spielman
Though Passover officially began the evening of April 10, my own observance of the holiday began a week earlier at the annual JF&CS Friendly Visitor Passover Seder; it’s a time when elders and volunteers gather together to celebrate the holiday.
Twelve years ago, with generous support from the George and Beatrice Sherman Family Charitable Trust, we began the tradition of hosting the Seder. Our first Seder was attended by approximately 20 guests and volunteers, offering an opportunity for isolated older adults to gather with volunteers to participate in a Seder, something they might not have been able to do otherwise.
Over these past 12 years, the Seder has evolved and grown into a celebration of more than 140 older adults, friends, volunteers, Betty Ann Greenbaum Miller Center for Jewish Healing Advisory Council members, and JF&CS staff. We gather to read the Haggadah (the story of Passover), recite traditional prayers, sing familiar holiday songs, and share a delicious meal with many holiday favorites – all taking place in a room beautifully decorated with artwork created by families from four different synagogues. This year, we were especially delighted that Claire Sherman of the George and Beatrice Sherman Family Charitable Trust was able to join us.
Marjorie U. Sokoll, the Director of the Betty Ann Greenbaum Miller Center for Jewish Healing, used her newly acquired basic skills in Russian to guide Russian-speaking guests through the reading of our English/Hebrew/Russian Haggadah! We also celebrated the birthday of our oldest guest who recently turned 100 years old!
As for me, I had the rare opportunity to create a celebration filled with friends, whether I’ve known them for 12 years or we’ve just met. I hear comparisons of the charoset we were eating (a dish of apples, walnuts, and cinnamon) with charoset made by someone’s mother in 1935 and I observe the line between volunteer and guest blur as everyone enjoys an afternoon filled with meaning, community, and sweet memories.
Sue Spielman, MPA, has worked with JF&CS for more than 13 years managing the Friendly Visitor Program and the Caring Communities Resource Network, both programs of JF&CS Betty Ann Greenbaum Miller Center for Jewish Healing, and more recently, Cafe Hakalah of JF&CS Schechter Holocaust Services. in her work with people of all ages, Sue has developed a deep appreciation for the positive impact a feeling of connection can make on one's quality of life, and she is honored to be able to help create those connections. Prior to her work with JF&CS, Sue worked for 20 years in the world of parenting education and support as an educator and community organizer. Sue received degrees from Harvard University, Wheelock College, and the University of Massachusetts.