Posted by Sue Spielman
This past Sunday, the Friendly Visitor Program, a program of the Betty Ann Greenbaum Miller Center for Jewish Healing, hosted 130 people at its 13th annual Friendly Visitor Passover Seder with the generous support of Claire and Norton Sherman, of blessed memory. The program began with a warm welcome from Steve Sherman, Claire and Norton’s son, and Steve’s wife, Alison. We were delighted that the weather held up and they were able to make the trip together with their children, Zach and Annie, from Connecticut!
One of the goals of the Friendly Visitor Program is to make sure vulnerable older adults know they are part of a vibrant and caring community. One of the ways to help achieve this goal is by bringing together JF&CS older adult clients, Friendly Visitor volunteers, volunteers from the greater community, and dedicated JF&CS staff members to participate in this unique Passover Seder. For many guests, this is the only Seder they will attend. It is hard to express the importance of so many community members joining together with JF&CS older adult clients to create an intergenerational experience and a true sense of communal joy.
Dan Miller, husband of Betty Ann, of blessed memory, along with members of the Betty Ann Greenbaum Miller Center for Jewish Healing Advisory Council, engaged in conversation with many of our older adult guests. Three of our members, Marilyn Ross, Joyce Pastor, and Bruce Bell, helped in a variety of ways including serving the delicious full-course meal, driving guests, and guiding a guest through the reading of the Haggadah (the book that tells the story of Passover).
One notable intergenerational experience was the precious moment when 7-year-old Alison Darish, daughter of JF&CS board member Danielle Darish, accompanied Marjie Sokoll in the singing of Hine Mah Tov, a song of welcome. Marjie is the director of the Betty Ann Greenbaum Miller Center for Jewish Healing.
There were other poignant moments during our Seder that will remain in my mind: watching two old friends embrace who only see each other at our Friendly Visitor holiday events, seeing guests of all ages passing around ritual Seder items like matzah, parsley, and bowls of salt water, and the blush on the face of one of our volunteers as four older guests tried to match him up with their granddaughters. I also cannot forget the look of surprise and joy on the faces of our Russian-speaking guests, most of them Holocaust survivors or victims of Nazi persecution, hearing Marjie Sokoll, who led the Seder, speaking not only in English and Hebrew but also in Russian, while using our amazing Haggadah, written in English, Hebrew, and Russian.
We want to thank members of Congregation Mishkan Tefila for the beautiful floral centerpieces and delicious gift bags they created for each of our guests. Together, the volunteers, members of our community, JF&CS staff, and older adult guests experienced an intergenerational gathering and a true sense of communal joy!
View photos from the event here!
Sue Spielman, MPA, has worked with JF&CS for more than 14 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. Sue also manages 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.
The annual Friendly Visitor Passover Seder is made possible through the generosity of the George & Beatrice Sherman Family Charitable Trust.