Norton, along with his wife, Claire, were long-time supporters
of JF&CS with a strong desire to support Jewish elders. They met with Marjorie Sokoll years ago and decided to bring clients of the JF&CS Friendly Visitor Program, which matches isolated elders with weekly visitors, together at two communal gatherings – a Passover Seder and a Chanukkah celebration. Without their generosity, these important events would not have been possible. Over the past decade, Sue Spielman, who organizes these gatherings, expanded them to include all JF&CS Jewish elder clients who are isolated and appreciate being with others for holiday celebrations.
I was personally privileged to have the opportunity to visit Norton and Claire Sherman, the first Friday of every month, to celebrate the beginning of Shabbat. We would sit around their dining room table with his caregivers and sing, chant, and talk. Sometimes Norton would be very tired and just sit in his wheelchair, eyes closed, and other times he would bellow out the melodies of the prayers.
It was very special to share the Shabbat experience with Norton's dedicated caregivers. He had invited them to join us and a sacred moment was created when we prayed for shalom, wholeness, and peace.
As part of the celebration, I would share thoughts on the weekly Torah portion and we would engage in thoughtful dialogue from our different religious traditions. These moments of sharing created a magical feeling at the table that emerged spontaneously. Once, when one of his caregivers spoke about the recent death of his nephew, it opened up a discussion about the subject of loss.
At the Sherman's table, Shabbat connected us to each other in a deeply spiritual way. May Norton's memory serve as a blessing to Claire and her family. He will be sorely missed.
Barbara Sternfield, MA has worked with older adults in the Jewish community for more than 30 years. For the past 18 years, she has been a program specialist for Jewish Healing Connections (JHC). She has been leading Shabbat and holiday celebrations since the inception of the award-winning Nursing Home/Assisted Living Shabbat and Holiday Program that received its initial funding from the Lenny Zakim Fund. She also facilitates the JHC bereavement support groups.