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Bringing Elders Together
March 31, 2015
Bringing Elders Together

JF&CS News Spring 2015

Norton & Claire ShermanClaire and Norton Sherman met on a blind date more than sixty years ago. They fell in love and were married in 1955, moving to Norton’s hometown of Newton and starting a family. Through the years, the couple has experienced the joys and sorrows that make their way into every long life. Now they find themselves in a unique position -- as both supporters and clients of Jewish Family & Children’s Service.

“We are so fortunate to have Claire and Norton Sherman as visionary leaders who, ten years ago, recognized the need to provide services for isolated and frail older adults,” said Marjorie Sokoll, MEd, Director of Jewish Healing Connections. “We feel so blessed for their leadership. This would have never been possible without their support.”

The partnership began with the Shermans’ desire to support Jewish elders. They met with Marjie and decided to bring clients of the JF&CS Friendly Visitor Program, which matches isolated elders with weekly visitors, together at two communal gatherings – a Passover Seder and a Chanukkah party.

For many elderly Jews in Greater Boston, isolated and alone, the holidays can be a sad time. Happily, because of the support of the Shermans, these elders celebrate the holidays together, connecting with each other and with the next generation.

“At this age, invitations are few and far between. No one wants to feel like a third wheel. Even at friends’ houses, you’re sort of outside looking in the window,” said Claire. “Here you’re an insider -- you’re an integral part of it.”

When Norton was diagnosed with kidney failure and went on dialysis, he began receiving services from the JF&CS Visiting Nurse Association. “Your life is completely changed when you’re as sick as Norton. You can’t go out, you have a strict diet, and if you deviate you end up in the hospital,” said Claire. “That’s why I appreciate now what it means to get out of the house in a way that I didn’t before. At the Seder, we’re treated as first class citizens, not as old people. I see it both ways – as a supporter and a client.”

When he’s able to come to the celebration, Norton speaks to the group about the importance of gathering Jewish elders in community and creating connections. “As he’s become older, Norton realizes the importance of this even more,” said Marjie. “His words are always inspiring.”

Friendly Visitor SederThe celebrations have grown to sixty older adults, coming from various JF&CS programs including the assisted living and nursing home Shabbat program, Schechter Holocaust Services, mental health, and geriatric care.

“It’s grown in stature and size, blossoming from a small casual Seder into something that is very important and that a lot of people look forward to,” said Claire. “I enjoy the group participation, how people respond to the singing. It’s a noisy, vibrant, living thing. JF&CS has done a wonderful job.”

The program has thrived over the years because of the generosity of many volunteers who give people rides to and from the party, welcome guests, and assist them during the meal.

Additionally, volunteers at Temple Beth Avodah of Newton and CJP Women’s Philanthropy gathered in December to make gift bags for the guests at the Friendly Visitor Chanukkah party. Seventy-five women decorated mugs and packed tea, lotion, tissues, gift cards, and warm socks for party guests to take home with them.

“This is a great opportunity for people who wouldn’t normally have a lot of time to volunteer but who care about older adults and want to contribute to their quality of life,” said Sue Spielman, MPA, Coordinator, Friendly Visitor Program and Caring Communities Resource Network. “These are gifts that are really treasured.”

Students have also lent a hand, from high school students in the JCC Diller Teen Fellows leadership program to a capella singers from Brandeis University and students from Boston College Jewish Law Student Association. The student volunteers join elderly clients to listen, tell stories, sing songs, and share a meal.

“We couldn’t run programs without volunteers. The students are energetic and willing to do whatever needs to be done to make the elders comfortable, happy and welcome,” said Sue.

“We want older Jewish adults to know that the Greater Boston community remembers and treasures them,” added Sue. Thanks to the generous support of Claire and Norton Sherman, they do.

For more information, call 781-647-JFCS (5327) or email your questions via our contact us page.
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