Posted by Jon Federman

On Sunday, November 17, JF&CS Headquarters in Waltham was a hive of activity with both the Friendly Visitor Chanukkah Celebration and the Fragile Beginnings "Journey Through Prematurity" conference taking place on what is usually a quiet day. Sunday's events brought a diverse group of attendees gathered under one roof in Waltham. JF&CS once again showed its strength in caring for the generations with these two events that covered both ends of the intergenerational spectrum.

Friendly Visitor Chanukkah Celebration

Friendly Visitor Chanukkah CelebrationLatkes, prayers, songs, and menorahs were everywhere on Sunday at the 8th Annual JF&CS Friendly Visitor Chanukkah Celebration. More than 70 elders, volunteers, Jewish Healing Connections Advisory Council members, and JF&CS staff members joined together for this joyous occasion. Elders came not only from the Friendly Visitor Program, but also from a variety of other JF&CS programs, including Schechter Holocaust Services, New American Services, Your Elder Experts, Mental Health, Aging Well at Home, and residents of assisted living facilities who participate in the Jewish Healing Connections monthly Shabbat Programs.

Volunteers from a variety of JF&CS programs helped make a wonderful and haimische afternoon, transporting elders to and from their homes, as well as singing, laughing, and discussing Thanksgivukkah, the overlap of Thanksgiving and Chanukkah this year. Volunteers from JF&CS Young Professionals and the Boston College Jewish Law Student Association also helped to make the day a success. For the second year in a row, Brandeis University's premier Jewish co-ed a cappella group, Manginah, performed contemporary Hebrew and English songs.

The Friendly Visitor Chanukkah Celebration began eight years ago when JF&CS recognized that many elders were alone on the holidays, either because their families lived far away or because they had lost loved ones. Thanks to the generosity of the George and Beatrice Sherman Family Charitable Trust, JF&CS is able to bring together isolated elders who would otherwise have no opportunities to recite Chanukkah prayers, sing Chanukkah songs, and even eat delicious potato latkes. One attendee said, "The afternoon was terrific. You created light in many lives and I feel blessed to have been there and to be part of such a meaningful organization."

"The celebration of Chanukkah was enhanced by the spirit of community at the event," added Sue Spielman, Coordinator of the Friendly Visitor Program. "The bond between volunteers and elders was heartwarming. It was everything people love about Chanukkah."

Fragile Beginnings "Journey Through Prematurity" Conference

Journey Through PrematurityAlso on Sunday, the JF&CS Fragile Beginnings Preemie Parent Alliance (FBPPA) joined with the Massachusetts chapter of the March of Dimes in co-sponsoring the second annual " Journey Through Prematurity" Conference at JF&CS Headquarters in Waltham. More than 50 people attended the free conference, which took place on World Prematurity Day. One in eight babies in the US and 15 million babies world-wide are born prematurely each year. The premature birth rate in the US alone has risen by 36% over the last 25 years. World Prematurity Day brings attention to the prevalence of premature births throughout the world and raises awareness of how it can be prevented.

Guest speaker Kasey Mathews, author of the book Preemie, and a preemie mom herself, captivated the audience with stories about premature birth and its effects on parents, emphasizing not only the fear and isolation involved at first, but also the sense of hope that comes along with education and support from groups like the FBPPA. A panel of five mothers and fathers whose babies were born prematurely also shared their reflections of parenting with the audience. Every guest received a complimentary copy of Kasey's book, as well.

"Just like last years' conference, there was a lot of emotion and energy generated by shared understanding of the experiences of prematurity," said CERS Director Peggy Kaufman. "This event aligns perfectly with the mission of the Oliver, Ian, and Serenity Wolk Fragile Beginnings program: to connect preemie parents to information, support, and to other preemie parents."

Jon FedermanJon 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.