Posted by Marjorie U. Sokoll
“Let All Who Are Hungry Come and Eat” – from the Passover Haggadah
On the eve of the Exodus, Pharaoh asked Moses, “Who are the ones who will be leaving with you?,” and Moses replied, “We will all go, young and old.” (Exodus 10:9)
Just as all the Israelites left Egypt, this past Sunday I experienced the many ways JF&CS touches the lives of different members of our community, through the lens of the Passover story.
Each year, I am privileged to lead the Friendly Visitor Passover Seder, organized so beautifully by the coordinator of the program, Sue Spielman. What was unusual this year, however, is that while Sue and I were setting the tables for the 70 frail elders and volunteers who would be arriving for the Seder, more than 50 children and adults from Temple Beth Zion of Brookline were on the other side of the room packing hundreds of bags with Passover food and ritual items for JF&CS Family Table recipients. We also heard their rabbi, Moshe Waldoks, share inspiring words with his congregants about the important mitzvah of feeding the hungry. His words really resonated with me; through our Seder we were feeding the spirits of frail elders. For some, this is the only Seder they will attend.
At the same time, Sandy Slavet, the director of Jewish Life – Services for People with Disabilities, was leading a Passover “Brunch and Learn” in another part of the building. When Marsha Frankel, Clinical Director of Senior Services learned that a deaf elder couple had arrived at our Seder, she went to find Sandy, who just happens to be an interpreter of American Sign Language. When Marsha explained the situation, Sandy said she would be delighted to spend the next few hours interpreting for this elder couple so they could truly feel part of this caring community!
Shortly after the Seder, I received a beautiful email from Joyce Zakim, a member of the Jewish Healing Connections Advisory Council and the JF&CS Board of Directors that captures the spirit and essence of the day.
“I just got back from your inspiring and moving Seder. The feeling in the room was so warm, inclusive, and welcoming. I felt proud to be on the Jewish Healing Connections Advisory Council and the JF&CS Board! I brought with me the woman I met at the Seder several years ago. On the way home she was telling me how the prayers and the songs brought her back to her Seders in Riga, when she sang with her Orthodox parents. She was so moved by hearing these tunes again. I was moved as well, looking around the room, seeing all the seniors there enjoying the togetherness of the afternoon. I was so impressed that you even had a woman there using sign language to interpret the prayers. No one was alone! It was a wonderful way to start my Pesach season!!”
After the Seder one of the elders could be heard saying, “I felt so alive and connected!”
This past Sunday, I experienced what it truly means to include the whole community. And I was reminded, once again, how fortunate I am to work at JF&CS and to have such wonderful colleagues and friends!
The Friendly Visitor Passover Seder, a program of Jewish Healing Connections, is made possible through the generosity of the George and Beatrice Sherman Family Charitable Trust.
Marjorie U. Sokoll, MEd, Director of Jewish Life and Healing, is the founder and director of JF&CS Jewish Healing Connections, which helps ensure that people feel a sense of connection when facing the challenges of illness, loss, or isolation by offering spiritual and communal supports to provide hope, comfort, and wholeness guided by Jewish tradition. “It is not good for people to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18). Marjie also provides spiritual support for the JF&CS Parkinson’s Family Support Program, is a founding partner at the Kalsman Institute for Judaism and Health, and holds a certificate of thanatology from the National Center for Death Education.