where is Mommy and Daddy sleeping?
It took me a while to have the time to write about my personal experience with the Yiskor Service on Yom Kippur.
My birth parents passed away 16 months apart. I call them my birth parents because even though they did raise me a good part of my life, they were dysfunctional. My birth mother verbally abused me, physically abused me; and was so unpredictable behaviorally, I never knew what to expect from day to day. My birth father I know loved me, but he sexually abused me while my leg was in a cast when I was 17. I just got home from the hospital when this occurred.
There is so much I can write about my childhood, but I will stick to a couple of my last experiences with them. My birth mother kicked me out of the house after I accepted my husband’s proposal. She changed the locks and everything. She could not face that I was old enough to get married (I was 18), then she would eventually become a grandmother. She was a very vain woman who was only really concerned with her appearance and could not face getting older. My birth father did nothing to stop this. A few years later, when I asked him why he let all the craziness in the house take place and let his wife did what she did with me, he said, ” it was easier that way.” When I did try to have a relationship with them after my husband and I had two sons, my birth mother proved she could not handle relationships and possible obligations . I was ill off and on for most of a summer. My birth mother gave me a call and she said I did not sound good. I told her what was going on, and I never heard from her again and never heard from my birth father again. I remember them starting to divorce themselves from family and friends. They divorced themselves from my birth father’s parents after bringing them into Philadelphia when they could not be in New York alone anymore; my “Norney.” She was our closest friend in the world. She was like my nanny. She was devastated and did not understand what happened. There were so many people they just stopped having relationships with. They eventually ended up alone. It was what my birth mother wanted. She made sure my relationship with my birth father would not pass a certain boundary; and she made sure she had her husband all to herself.
So now it is Yom Kippur, it is time for the Yiskor service. I told my congregation my situation. How I could recite the prayers for parents. Of course I did not go into great detail, but calling them my birth parents gave them an idea. I told them I know I am not alone, and they should know they are not alone. Many of us grew up with shtick in our families. I know the fifth commandment, “Honor thy Father and Mother. I struggle with this. I have not forgiven, but I learned to let go several years ago. I just could not recite the prayers. I know what the prayers say. I could not given them any honor. During El Malei Rachamim, I broke down. I do not know how I got through it. When it came to Mourners Kadish, my congregation, my community, came through when I could not recite the words, they continued.
I realized not matter what, my birth parents gave me life. With this life, I did things that I thought could never happen because of where and what I came from. I cannot give them honor, but I am here!
My community’s love, compassion, and friendship came through. At the end of the services, as many are leaving, they thanked me for my, “humanity.” They felt that what I demonstrated was “real.”
It has been three years since I blogged.
A lot has happened: Employment changes; moving; health problems that I learned to deal with; learning to live with others; husband’s health problems; and so much more. LIFE!
I have not felt like writing in a very long time. as you saw above, so much has taken place. I have so many different feelings in me that I have not been able to straighten them out.
I suffer from Migraines and Occipital Neuralgia. After the last four years of providing Music and Motion, Judaic Studies and more to preschools, I have had to give it up. It got to be too much for me especially the last few months. It is difficult to model jumping, galloping, running, and much more when one has a migraine, and the ON is flaring up. Just medication does not take care of the pain and or aura much of the time. The fluorescent lights! A big problem too. Teachers screaming, kids screaming, etc. I miss these preschoolers. I love teaching them. I feel a hole in my heart. I feel like a part of my purpose for being on this earth has been taken away.
I have gone through three neurologists due to medical coverage reasons; or that he/she was not cutting it when it came to care. I know that migraines, and ON are not curable, but they are manageable. They are both trial and error conditions. Each doctor has his/her methods. Not all medications assist all the time. Botox for migraines, nerve blocks, migraine abortives, and more.
The other difficulty with each doctor is the office staff. Most office staff, do not return phone calls. The other problems is getting prescription refills. A present office either does not respond to me or to the pharmacy. When I finally get them to call in a script, the office gets it wrong. It took five tries!
So this is a taste of what else has been happening the past few years.
My husband and I purchased a home with our oldest son and family. We had to learn to live with them and they had to learn to live with us. It is OK. What is surprising, is that we still are not fully unpacked! Our suite is coming a long, slowly but surely. Again, LIFE!
My poor husband has had 2 surgeries to help him deal with his neck, hand, and back issues. He is my superman. Grass does not grow under his feet. He had his last surgery a couple days before Rosh Hashana. This surgery was much more invasive than the last one. Whereas, he was back at work a week later last time, with this surgery, it will be a month or more. He is having to rest this time around, take it easy, hold back. He just doesn’t lay down 24/7, but he has to pace himself and watch his movements.
There are good things happening and worth writing about, so, as Arnold Schwartenegger said, “I’ll be bahk.” I want to try writing again. I think it may help me and hopefully help you.
Here is another High Holiday Sermon.
I did not know what I was going to write until I read an article by Rabbi Marc Gellman who is part of a team with Monsignor Tom Hartman called, The God Squad. For several years they did an answer and question article in newspapers.
This article I read in the Coral Springs Forum is called, “Hope Encapsulates the Meaning of Life.” I would like to share some of it with you.
The Question was: In a recent column on deism, you said that hope is far more important to you than truth, which I liked. A story: My Mother, a non-smoker, died of lung cancer. After her priest offered her last rites, he asked if she had anything else that she’d like. This woman, with no remaining lung strength, loudly and clearly said, “Yes, I’d like my family to have hope. “So, as I go through the years, I often think about the word. How would define hope?
Here is the answer by Rabbi Gellman: “ Hope is more important to me than truth, because it’s easy to be wrong about truth, but it’s impossible to be wrong about hope.
However, hope endures and grounds my faith and my life not because it can’t be refuted but because it can’t be surpassed. It is the core part of my answer to life’s meaning: Do good things and hope that you can do more good things tomorrow. Hope is my spiritual blood.
So that’s how hope functions in me. As for a definition of hope, I’d start with the simplest meaning of hope as the belief that tomorrow will be better than today.
Why do we believe that? Why do we hope when we know that tomorrow may well be worse than today? Well, we could as easily ask, why do we love when we know that our loved one could die? Why do we hunger when we know that sometimes we will not be fed?
There are certain primal desires in our species and hope is one of them. We can’t live without hope, so even calling it a belief makes it seem far too volitional. Hope is the way purpose and goodness propels us into the future. Hope sustains us because it is on its way, and that’s hardly an optional belief.
Religion without hope is not religion because life without hope is not life, and religion is the way we weave hope into our lives. I’m hopeful because I believe that God has made us in God’s image and has laid up for us in the World to Come/Heaven a life for our souls after the death of our bodies.
To me God, even without the promise of heaven, is the indispensable source of my hope. Even without the promise of heaven, God’s compassionate creation of us as moral beings made in God’s image makes my hope not just a naïve expectation, but a certain gift.
The best biblical text on hope is from the Book of Proverbs, 10:28, ‘The hope of the righteous is joy, but the hope of the wicked shall perish.’
From this verse we learn that the reward of our hope is a joyous life and the punishment of evil is the destruction of hope. Hope and righteousness are connected and connect us to joy and God. Cruelty deprives us of that connection and makes our hope vanish like dust in the wind.
The most beautiful meditation on hope I know is that Emily Dickinson’s poem, “Hope is the Thing With Feathers.”
“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm,
I’ve heard it in the chilliest land
And on the strongest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.”
So, you want my definition of hope? Heck, hers is his better.”
We, as a Jewish people, understand the word, “hope.” The Hebrew word for hope is, “tikvah.” The word “hatikvah” is the title of our national anthem in Israel. The song speaks of a hope that remained undimmed for two thousand years even as we endured some of the worst discrimination, oppression, and outright destruction ever known to humankind. A tiny minority of the world’s population and of the countries in which we found ourselves living down the centuries, we nonetheless managed to keep a beacon of hope burning that enables us to survive. We are a miracle! We thrived intellectually, morally, philosophically, and in our own day, economically.
“Hope” is a precious gift. It is a quality that allows us not to deny the reality that we find, but rather to acknowledge it, to confront it head on and to think of other possibilities. When facing long, even unimaginable odds, it is “hope” on which we must draw if we are to see our task through, or, in remembrance of Rabbi Tarfon’s words, “not to despair in the midst of undertaking it.” It is a concept so improbable that the term has recently been paired with the word, audacity.” This is not a bad word and Judaism has a good translation for that as well, “chutzpa.” How implausible, how “chutzpadik it is, after all, to ask people to keep believing that a desirable outcome is possible when all evidence seems to point to the contrary.
Hope is a large part of this morning’s Torah reading for the first day of Rosh HaShana. Abraham banishes Hagar, his maidservant, per Sara’s demand. She is angry with Hagar because she does not treat Sara and Isaac well, therefore, Abraham tells her and Yishmael to leave and she has no place to go but into the desert, presumably to die. Abraham turns to God who tells him to follow Sara’s request, saying that it is instead through Isaac that his weed will continue. It is a moment which, to Abraham, must surely have sounded like a death sentence for Yishmael, as though God was saying, “Put Yishmael out of your mind, for his survival is not significant.” At this moment, where all hope seems gone, suddenly an opening, for God adds, “As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.”
Abraham sends the pair off into the wilderness, giving them some bread and water so they might sustain themselves. The water is finished and Hagar is certain they will die. She sends Yishmael off a small distance so that she will not witness his death, and weeps. Again, hope seems utterly gone, and then, again, an opening. God opens her eyes, the text tells us, and shows her a well of water which she can use to restore them both to life. In both of these moments, we learn that hope must never be extinguished, because it has the power to help remake reality, so long as there is a future, there is a different course that it could take. Perhaps that is why the signature example of chutpa, of hope, is Theodore Herzl, declaring after the First Zionist Congress that he expected a Jewish state to be a reality in fifty years. The idea that an assimilated Jew in Switzerland in 1897, in the midst of a resurgent wave of antisemitism in Europe could say this or even imagine it is mind boggling! Herzl eloquently said, “Im tirtzo, ein zo agada,” if you will it, it is no dream.” Fifty years and a few months after Herzl’s prophetic words, the United Nations voted to create a Jewish state in Palestine.
Hope requires the ability to envision a different course, to acknowledge that “change” is possible. I added another word, “change.” Hope and Change are two separate words when it comes to the Days of Awe. “Hope” assumes the possibility of change and serves as the driving force to make it a reality. I think “change” is hope made concrete. During these holidays, we must give concrete expression to our failures and short comings, both by reciting the litany of sins in our prayer services and by articulating our own specific failings to those we love and to ourselves. These acknowledgements create both the awareness of what needs to be done and the incentive for how to get there, the hope.
The 27th Psalm for the month of Elul closes with, “Lulei he’emonti lir’ot b’tuv Adonai b’eretz chayim, “I believe I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Why does the verse say, “In the land of the living?” Maybe it means I will see the urge for better things made real in my life in this world, in the land of the living. The psalm then concludes, “Kaveh el Adonai, chazak v’ya’ametz libecha, v’kaveh el Adonai,” “Hope for Adonai, be strong and let your heart take courage, and hope for Adonai.”
Let us use hope to envision a more vibrant path for ourselves, and our communities, and maybe the world. Let us use hope to make changes we can really believe in. Let us say, amen.
*Compiled and written by Cantor Risa Askin.
Used writings by: Rabbi Marc Gellman, and Rabbi Joshua Waxman.
One of my sermons from the High Holidays.
I thank all the contributors.
Happiness and Meaning
One of my favorite videos and songs the past couple years is the song, “Happy,” by Pharrell Williams.
It seemed like the whole nations was singing and dancing to this song! It was part of the soundtrack for an animated movie called, “Despicable Me 2,” and an Oscar nominated song. Why? I will say, as a musician, it was well written. The lyrics are full of happiness reminding us about sunshine, hot air balloons; and that even with bad news, if our level of happiness is high enough, we can not be brought down.
I think the question now is how do we achieve this? According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word, happy, means the feeling of pleasure and enjoyment because of your life and situation.
The word for “happy” in Hebrew is “sameach.” Judaism believes in “Simcha,” happiness despite what is going on, not because of it. It is an inner sense of well-being not dependent on anything else. Happiness is not about fun or the pursuit of pleasure, though Judaism believes these are important. It is not about getting what you want when you want it. It is about understanding that the world is what it is and though we can try to make it better, we cannot fix or change everything.
I think happiness is finding something to celebrate every day, no matter how small it may be.
It is a mitzvah, yes a commandment to be happy. Mitzvah g’dolah liyot b’simcha tamid, it is great to be happy always. Reb Nachman of Bratzlav taught this when we were in crisis, threatened by riots and progroms, threatened from within by a heavy-handed sense of legalism, institutionalism, and hierarchy. We responded by living according to Reb Nachman’s teaching.
Raise your hand if you want to be happy! I do not mean a quick-fix kind of happiness that is fleeting and would make you feel dissatisfied shortly, and I do not mean a, “Don’t worry, be happy,” kind of happiness. I mean a deep happiness, a sense of fulfillment, of purpose. The type of happiness that Aristotle imagined around 2400 years ago when he invented the pursuit of eudemonia, the science and philosophy of happiness. The type of happiness Maimonides took from Aristotle 850 years ago when he wrote, “The Guide For the Perplexed.” The type of the philosopher, Victor Frankl, discovered when he emerged from Ashwitz and realized the necessity of laughter, happiness, and meaning; and the type of happiness that Natan Sharansky, a refusenik, sitting in solitary confinement and knowing his life was happier than any guard or representative in the Russian Regime.
Did you know there was a college course on happiness? Harvard Professor, Tal Ben Shakar is teaching this “science” at Harvard. So, it is not just a goal in life, it is a science. In the science of eudemonics, happiness, one can get a Master’s Degree! The science of eudemonics is not just a feeling,, it has physiological trackers, for example, CT scans, EEGs, and biopsies that demonstrate that without happiness, plaque can build up on neural transmitters.
Positive Psychological expert Emiliya Zhivolovskya teaches that there are six key pathways to achieving happiness:
Rabbi Noach Weinberg, one of the Rabbis who founded Baal T’shuvah teaches, “happiness is a universal longing, yet, so many people are unhappy. Why? Western society commonly perveives happiness as the outcome of what you achieve and acquire. Examples:
With all, or at least, most of the above, these purchases or acquirements lead to only temporary happiness, although, sometimes I think the one million dollars may give me more than temporary happiness.
I read an article that was published in a newspaper called, The Atlantic, by Emily Esfahani Smith October 22, 2014. It is about Victor Frankl, a Holocaust Survivor. Mr. Frankl is a Psychiatrist and author of the book, “Man’s Search For Meaning, which was was published in 1946.
Mr. Frankl saw in the concentration camps those who found meaning in the most horrendous circumstances, they were far more resilient to suffering than those who did not. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of human freedoms, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
In 1991, the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club listed the book, “Man’s Search For Mearning,” as one of the most influentital books in the U. S. After many years, it’s emphasis on meaning, the value of suffering, and responsibility to something greater than the self, seems to be at odds with our culture, which is more interested in the pursuit of individual happiness than in search for meaning. Frankl wrote, “To the European, it is a characteristic of the American culture, that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to be happy, but, happiness cannot be pursued, it must ensue (to take place afterward or as a result.) One must have a reason to be happy.
Even though Americans are the happiest they have been in years, 40% have not discovered a satisfying life purpose, in other words, these people have not found meaning in their lives.
Research has demonstrated having a purpose and meaning in life increases life satisfaction; improves mental and physical health, enhances self-esteem and decreases chances of depression. It is interesting; the pursuit of happiness leaves people less happy.
Psychologists found, leading a happy life is associated with being a taker, while leading a meaningful life corresponds with being a giver.
Happiness without meaning characterizes a lifestyle where things go well; needs and desires are easily satisfied, and difficult situations are avoided. Being happy is associated with being a taker. Being happy means one is receiving a lot of benefits from others.
Psychologists give, what they call, an evolutionary explanation. If you have a need or desire, like hunger, you satisfy it, and that makes you happy. People become happy when they get what they want or desire. This is one thing we have in common with animals.
Frankl derived from his experiences in the Concentration Camps witnessing human suffering that, being human always points and is directed to something or someone, other than oneself, be it a meaning to fulfill or another human encounter. The more one forgets oneself, by giving oneself to a cause, or another person to love, the more human one is.
I asked people on social media about what they felt happiness is. Here are some of their responses.
An acquaintance of mine says, “We are to do good deeds to achieve happiness. Hopefully when we do the required mitzvot, the feeling of happiness will come along. We are commanded at times to be happy. Can we really do this? It is called complete faith.”
Another friend says, “My comment comes from working with older adults professionally for the past 14 years. They have taught me that we can choose happiness. I’ve met seniors in poor health, seniors who outlived their children, and those who have faced numerous other changes in their lives. Yet, because of their positive attitudes, they can still be happy. I have also met older adults who are just unhappy no matter what. So, in my opinion, it’s all about attitude. Try to find the good, rather than looking for the bad, and happiness can be achieved. When we choose happiness, we can endeavor to make others happy as well.”
A colleague of mine, Rabbi Arthur Segal from South Carolina says, “Judaically, happiness comes when we align our will and our ego, with Hashem’s will; put others first and drop the yokes society places on us and pick up the yoke of Hashem which causes all the other yokes to leave us. I teach, drop the ‘I’ as that is ego, delete the want as that is desire, and Hashem always gives us what we need, and one if left with happiness.
In the year 5776, may we find the meaning and happiness in our lives, and let us say, amen.
Compiled and written by Cantor Risa Askin
Used references from: Rabbi Melissa Simon, friends and acquaintances.
Well, everybody here in South Florida says that summer is over. After living here for 20 years, I still can’t say that until after Labor Day even though I start my first day of school tomorrow and Hebrew Starts Sunday.
It has been a good, but interesting summer with ups and downs. Work issues have definitely affected the summer as well as my migraines, but I still appreciate the relaxation, and spending more time with Ron. We went away with some of the kids and grandkids to Orlando, and had the most wonderful time! I officiated a B’nai Mitzvah Ceremony in Colorado and Ron went with me. It was beautiful! The pictures are on Facebook. We saw old friends, and more old friends have moved here to South Florida that we are excited about.
I have been doing even more networking which I have always done, but I am reaching out even more which I feel at this point in my career is a necessity because, things are a change-in! I have been meeting some really great people!
I am now into my High Holiday music, sermons are written which will be published on my blog as well as social media after Yom Kippur.
For some reason, this year I concentrated on Hope and Happiness. Through social media, going out with friends, and my own thoughts and research, I feel that I have a couple of good sermons that will give congregants food for thought, and of course, I pray, Hope and Happiness! If you have any thoughts about how people can have Hope and how people can be Happy, please let me know. I could still add them to my sermons and unless you are a colleague, I do no not mention names.
More to come after a summer hiatus!
Yesterday, upon walking into Harbor Chase Memory Care in Tamarac, I was asked by the Director to visit a resident who is nearing the end of his life and sing a of song to him.
This resident has only been in Harbor Chase for a month and his health has been failing for quite a while. He is 93 years old. Upon hearing this man’s voice, one would never know it. He had a voice of an angel! Beautiful, right on pitch with mine. Just beautiful!
When I walked into the hall, the wife of the resident must have been waiting for me and asked me to go into her husband’s room for a minute and sing a song. I went into his room and he was surrounded by family. I went to the side of his bed and reminded him who I was and he squeezed my hand. He no longer can speak. His wife told me he is lucid off and on. I took out my guitar and sang a couple of songs from the Kabbalat Shabbat Service and the response he demonstrated brought tears to my eyes and I got the chills. The family was just amazed! They knew this would possibly be something that would give him happiness near the end. I told them family that I wanted to sing a M’sheberach for the resident’s comfort and the mental healing of the family, because everybody is going through so much. I sang Debbie Friedman’s M’sheberach and everyone was so appreciative and the resident demonstrated happiness and appreciation in his way.
I am so blessed to be able to bring comfort to people at a time like this. But, this visitation will forever be imprinted in my memory. I will remember the resident’s angelic voice, and I will remember the resident’s response to my voice forever.
May he pass on to the next world in peace and comfort, and may his family have peace during this very difficult time.
Since last week, I have been teaching a song called, “Like Me and You,” by Raffi.
The song teaches that children are the same all over the world, even with some of the differences depending on culture and traditions, skin color, etc. We also then spoke about respecting each other and appreciating our few differences
It is a song with two long verses and then of course the chorus. Since I see my students once or twice a week depending on age and if the class is bilingual, I teach longer songs piece by piece. I also teach longer songs in this fashion because of the short attention spans. I will teach a piece of a longer song, then move to something they know so I do not loose them and keep them happy.
I am an advocate for integration, so with this song I brought in a world map. I showed the kids where all the places we were singing about are. I was so thrilled how receptive they were to this! What was quite interesting, a few of the children noticed how tiny Israel is and was outspoken about it.
I keep on looking for more and more ways to integrate different subjects. It motivates me, therefore, motivates the children to keep learning. I have taken Science tables and made them into tables for different instrument families.
Anyway, what a week of wonderful teaching this has been, and what a wonderful week for learning!
I have not written all school year. Either I was much too busy, or too tired.
This year has had it’s challenges, both good and not so good; but I consider it a wonderful year.
For the first time in many years, I am working in a secular school. At first, it took some getting use to not teaching Jewish/Hebrew Music for holidays and conversation, but I adjusted as the year progressed. I still have the “Jewish Traditions” classes on Friday mornings at this school, and of course Hebrew school and my private students; as well as Life Cycle Events and conducting services every week, so I have the best of all words.
I think I must have needed a change after being at my previous preschool for several years because I have challenged myself to do things I have not done before, which is more curriculum based music. I get a copy of the grades curriculum and I piggyback. This has forced me to learn more music. I even wrote a piece called, “Hello, How Do You Do?” With the 3s, 4, and PreK Classes, I taught instrument families using books, videos, and of course real instruments. It was very well received. I taught the same thing with the toddlers and 2s but of course on a very different level. I am using so many different tools to teach music now, that it is impossible for me to get bored.
I have a wide variety of private students from mainstreamed to special needs. I love the challenges, and I love to witness the children’s successes. One of my autistic students will have his Bar Mitzvah ceremony at Bet Shmuel Cuban Synagogue in Miami next Saturday evening. I am excited about being on the Bima with him and watching the family and guests gasp at which this young man achieved!
I have become very comfortable leading meditation services which I offer the last Shabbat of every month at TBTST in Tamarac. Not only is it good for the participants, but for me as well. We breath, chant, relax, and just let go. Join us! The next one is May 30th. They start at 9AM and end around 10.
The Sisterhood of TBTST asked me again to run the program for May this year, but at a club house in Parkland. It was an awesome experience. There were thunderstorms prior to the program, which was called “Seasons of the Moon.” I incorporated the counting of the Omer, Lag baOmer, and Rosh Chodesh, with biblical text, midrashim, and a visualization. During the program we were in a screen house by a beautiful lake. It was still thundering and lightening, but the thunder was small rumbles. When discussing the revalation at Mount Sinai the rumbles of thunder was absolutely perfect and awesome! The sky was beautiful with red stripes and behind the clouds we could see the lightening. What a perfect night for the program! We ended it with Debbie Friedman’s, “Seasons of the Moon.” Several of the participants sang, and it was beautiful.
It has been a challenging year for me health wise due to migraines, sometimes quite severe. Teaching music with migraines is quite challenging. I have not taken a lot of extra commitments other than work related because of the unpredictability of these headaches, but I also try not to let them get me down. I have a wonderful specialist who is working with me to find the right medication to abort them. I also use essential oils to help give me relief. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. I have had to learn to do things a little differently like wearing orange glasses when the sun is bright and for my night driving. That has been a big help. Out in the sun, I wear a large brim hat. That has helped as well. We will continue to work on this challenging part of my life.
The end of the school year is fast approaching which means High Holiday preparations begin for me in a month or so regarding the writing of Sermons and polishing and learning new music.
I know it will be a great summer!!
Happy Mothers’ Day and be well.
I was asked to celebrate the Seventh Day of Chanukah at a senior community several weeks ago.
The Activities Director called me to find out what time I would get there to set up. I also relayed to her what I thought would be fun and very participative for the crowd. I wanted to ask questions which might lead to fun discussion for example: What Jewish Symbol is their favorite; which one warms their hearts the most? What smells do you remember growing up and or in your own homes during the Jewish Holidays? What sounds do your remember growing up and in your own homes during the Jewish Holidays? The Activities Director said that it may not be a good idea because usually the crowd is not very participative, that the seniors prefer a very musical program. I told her I have plenty of music they will enjoy and not to worry because I work at other senior communities and know how to get people to talk.
Upon getting their, the Activities Director asked if it would be OK to give the seniors instruments. I said, “Go for it!”
The program was wonderful! We had a beautiful Chanukah candle lighting, great discussion about Jewish symbols, then sang a couple of songs. We discussed holiday smells, and they asked me what smells I remembered. I spoke about my grandma’s sugar cookies and how till today, our sons remember the smell as well. We sang more songs, then spoke about Holiday sounds which took us into traditions we had in our homes that will carry on “l’dor vador,” from generation to generation. We joked about my husband being the main cook, at which the crowd asked what traditions am I giving our grandchildren. I told them my chicken soup and latkes. We joked, we sang, they accompanied me with instruments, clapping and foot tapping, and we talked. It was a wonderful 45 minutes. A gig that still has me on a high.
The Activities Director, who stayed the whole time, told me that she was thrilled with how the seniors participated with me.
We have to respect seniors. They have done so much for our world. They were our doctors, nurses, teachers, musicians, mothers, fathers, grandparents, etc. Seniors are people too who should be treated as such. I know it is hard; I know it can be down right difficult. I have learned to overlook a lot of the negativity. We have to try to understand their present lives. Some of the residents lost so much upon moving to their present communities. We have to talk into account their physical limitations, their present mental limitations. I talk to them, joke with them, tell them what is going on with me. When I find out they are ill, I call them, with permission, visit and become part of their lives. They certainly are part of mine.
Remember, seniors are people too.