Posted by Jon Federman
“Just as Chanukkah candles are lighted one by one from a single flame, so the tale of the miracle is passed from one person to another, from one house to another, and to the whole House of Israel throughout the generations.” -- Rabbi Judah Leon Magnes
On December 11, 140 people, including JF&CS older adult clients, JF&CS staff, Advisory Council members, and volunteers, came together at JF&CS Headquarters in Waltham for the 11th annual Friendly Visitor Chanukkah Celebration. Guests were treated to a celebration that included potato latkes, chocolate Chanukkah gelt (coins), dreidels (spinning tops), traditional Chanukkah blessings, candle lighting, and a Yiddish musical performance. The event was planned and organized by Sue Spielman, Manager of the JF&CS Friendly Visitor Program. Seamlessly, Sue coordinated the rides for almost every single guest both to and from the celebration.
JF&CS CEO Rimma Zelfand started off the event with a warm welcome. Much to the delight of the Russian-speaking guests in the room, Rimma concluded her welcome remarks in her native Russian and the appreciation was striking and even audible. Guests ranged in age from a six-month-old baby who brought joy to the faces of the guests up to a 100-year-old guest who enjoyed a brief moment in the spotlight when the entire room sang “Happy Birthday” to her. It was heartwarming to see children, young families, and older adults all taking part in this intergenerational gathering. Volunteers from Temple Sinai in Brookline created beautiful Chanukkah-themed centerpieces and volunteer families from Temple Aliyah in Needham made gifts for each of the guests.
Among the guests was Claire Sherman, supporter of the holiday programs, who has attended the annual celebration for many years. This year, Claire brought her son Steve for the first time. We were also delighted to have Dan Miller join us for the first time since September’s “Evening of Dedication,” when Jewish Healing Connections was renamed the Betty Ann Greenbaum Miller Center for Jewish Healing after his beloved late wife.
“For some of our guests, this Chanukkah Celebration, along with the Friendly Visitor Passover Seder, is the only opportunity they have to celebrate the Jewish holidays with others,” said Sue Spielman. “Many of our guests have no family or friends nearby. Many people who join us year after year have developed friendships with other guests and look forward all year to celebrating the Jewish holidays together with friends, both old and new.”
”It’s the only program we know of that brings vulnerable Jewish elders together in this way,” adds Marjie Sokoll, JF&CS Director of the Betty Ann Greenbaum Miller Center for Jewish Healing. “We started this program with just 25 people in attendance, half of whom were volunteers. Eleven years later, we have 140 people attending. Today, we even have an interpreter for our Russian-speaking Holocaust survivors. We are bringing friendship, celebration, and light through the generations to those in our community who might otherwise be alone for Chanukkah.”
The annual Friendly Visitor Chanukkah Celebration is made possible through the generosity of the George and Beatrice Sherman Family Charitable Trust.
Jon Federman is the JF&CS Staff Writer. A practicing attorney for more than 15 years, he is thrilled to bring his legal and persuasive writing skills to the JF&CS Marketing Communications department. Jon has a BA from Tufts University and a JD from Boston College Law School. In his spare time he is an exhibiting photographer and an award-winning cartoonist. Jon lived in London, England for five years before returning to Boston in 2011.