This year, Jewish Healing Connections celebrated our 10th anniversary of the Friendly Visitor Chanukkah Celebration. For the past decade, we have invited vulnerable JF&CS elder clients to gather together with JF&CS staff and volunteers to light the Chanukkah candles, enjoy festive entertainment, and eat delicious latkes and gelt (potato pancakes and chocolate coins!). What began ten years ago as a small gathering of 20 older adults has blossomed into a celebration with more than 120 participants!Each year I ask myself why this celebration grows bigger every year. I think about the older adults who sit together with agency staff and volunteers and realize that each table is truly a gathering of friends, both new and old. As I watch people singing Chanukkah songs together, exclaiming over the delicious latkes, or getting up to join a line-dance around the room to the music of Klezmer performers, I witness a gathering of people who feel a sense of connection - a feeling that they are not alone and that they are a part of a greater Jewish community.
Jewish tradition teaches that a little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness. Just like the miracle of the oil at Chanukkah dispelled a time of darkness for the Jewish people, a few hours of friendship and celebration clearly brings a great deal of light into the lives of our guests.
This year we lost one of the most enthusiastic members of our Friendly Visitor community, Norton Sherman, of blessed memory. Norton, along with his wife, Claire, provided the support to bring us all together over the last 10 years. His interest and concern was done out of a feeling of connection, passion, and empathy for vulnerable elders in the Jewish community. He was a light for all of us as he understood the importance of being part of a caring community. Though we will greatly miss Norton's presence at our holiday gatherings, as his wife Claire said at this year's gathering, "Norton would have loved being here, but he is truly here in spirit!" I will personally treasure the sense of connection his generosity has brought to our community over all of these years.
The Friendly Visitor Chanukkah Celebration is made possible through the generosity of the George and Beatrice Sherman Family Charitable Trust.
Sue Spielman, MPA, has worked with JF&CS for more than 13 years managing the Friendly Visitor Program and the Caring Communities Resource Network, both programs of JF&CS Jewish Healing Connections (JHC), and more recently, 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.