Posted by Sue Spielman

Hanukkah truly started for me when I looked around the room and saw so many familiar and new faces at our Friendly Visitor Hanukkah Celebration. While enjoying luscious latkes and applesauce, more than 70 frail elders, their volunteers, and a host of other guests chatted with people they hadn't known before, reminisced about Hanukkahs past, and talked about the meaning of light in their lives. Our fifth annual Hanukkah celebration, a program of Jewish Healing Connections, was underway and it was wonderful to see so many people gathered together to celebrate Hanukkah and share traditions, treasured memories, and companionship. Guests came from a variety of JF&CS programs, as well as from assisted living facilities where some participate in our monthly Shabbat programs.

This tradition began because we recognized that so many elders are alone on the holidays, often because their children live a distance away or they have lost loved ones. With the generosity of the George and Beatrice Sherman Family Charitable Trust (Norton and Claire Sherman pictured on right) we were able to bring isolated elders together. It quickly became a terrific opportunity for volunteers to help out and at the same time experience rituals and joy with elders.

It was a lively afternoon. Marjie Sokoll, director of Jewish Healing Connections, led us in prayer and song with guitar in hand and explained that kindling candles helps us pause to honor the sacred moments in the Jewish calendar. One woman talked about how as children she had the job of grinding the potatoes and that her mother made such crisp latkes. Another talked about the songs her family sang and someone else reminisced about how much he enjoyed watching his own children kindle the candles. Holocaust survivors spoke about not having holidays as children because of the tragedy in their lives. The group expressed concern about the fires in Israel and were relieved when someone reported that the fires were extinguished.

Throughout the event, we witnessed the caring bonds between volunteers and seniors. These close relationships are the heart of the program, and helped make the celebration such a special occasion, enhancing the commemoration of Hanukkah with the spirit of community.

Take a look at photos from the Hanukkah party.

Sue Spielman, MPA, has coordinated the Friendly Visitor Program for several years and, more recently, the Caring Communities Resource Network, both of which are programs of Jewish Healing Connections. She received degrees from Harvard University, Wheelock College, and the University of Massachusetts.