Posted by Marsha Frankel, Clinical Director of Senior Services
As my week in Dnepropetrovsk was ending, I was struck by two things in particular. One was the incredible warmth and graciousness of the people I had met and the second was their openness to new ideas. I expected to meet resistance as an "outsider" and foreigner coming in and making suggestions. But the people of Dnep don't see the Boston visitors as strangers, but rather as their brothers and sisters in revitalizing the Jewish community and in making the city a better place for all its residents.
The work the Boston-Dnepropetrovsk Kehillah project of the Jewish Community Relations Council has done in Dnep over the last two decades and, more specifically for Beit Baruch folks, all that Francine Godfrey of JCHE has done in the last eight years, made my job easy. The staff, from the physicians to the administrator to the aides, immediately embraced me, both literally and figuratively, and engaged in learning and problem solving together to make a great home for the elderly even better. We explored ways of dealing with both general and specific resident issues ranging from a suicidal elder to a demented woman who became very ill after eating soap and whose daughter insists that her mother wouldn't do that!
While I was hopefully helpful in teaching some techniques and offering some suggestions, the staff and residents demonstrated to me how much can be accomplished through commitment and caring despite limited resources. I saw residents walking arm in arm assisting each other and a staff that affirms the dignity of all. Over the coming months we will be emailing and telephone conferencing to continue learning and collaborating until we meet again when I visit in May.
Attending Shabbat services at the Golden Rose Synagogue was amazing. Hundreds of men, women, and children were there. All I could think about was what would my grandparents say if they had lived to see Jews in the Ukraine who are both free to practice their religion and accepted in the wider community? While we were there, Rabbi Kaminezki, the leader of the Jewish community, met with the president of the Ukraine. It is truly a miracle what the people of Dnepropetrovsk have accomplished and I only wish my grandparents were alive so I could tell them what I witnessed.
When I left I took a part of Dnep with me: their "can do" attitude and the genuine warmth and hospitality of the people.
You can read more about this amazing trip in my previous blog post.
Marsha Frankel, LICSW, is the Clinical Director of JF&CS Senior Services. She has many years of direct and consultative experience working with older adults in a variety of settings.