The High Holidays were exhausting and exhilarating.
Exhausting because I conducted services for three different senior communities, exhilarating because I conducted services for three different senior communities. Each community different culturally. I sang Kol Nidre seven times!
One, is the Memory Care Facility I have been at for about three years now. I have grown a lot while working there. We have grown a lot in the amount of people that come, and joy. I go there every Friday, make a circle, or an oval, and we have a very musical service with Kidish and Motzei afterwards. For the High Holidays, the circle was broken. I was put into the Club House Room and I conducted the services frontal. Not good! We went from upbeat singing, hand clapping, toe tapping, and laughter to almost nothing. Residents could not really focus even though I had a mike. I was told that that is where I would be conducting services for now on. I spoke with the director and told her that moving Shabbat Services into that room would be a huge error because we have grown so much regarding participation. With me sitting and playing guitar in a smaller room in a circle, the residents can focus on me and I can manipulate them enough for them to really use their brains. They move parts of their bodies to the music and they sing. They are wittier and at times I am cracking up laughing. We all laugh. More extended family is joining us! We are now continuing in the smaller space we wanted.
My second senior community, is unique. There is a large Jewish population there as demonstrated at the Passover Seder I conducted, but we get very few people at Shabbat Services which annoys the few that come. We have tried everything! I went from accapella to playing guitar. People that complained there was too much Hebrew i added more English for. We went from pamphlets my predecessor used to sidurim, prayer books, that I got donated. They still don’t come; but we have a great service with prayers, singing, discussions, wine, and my husband’s famous chocolate chip challah. The High Holidays were better than last year because we had Machzorim, High Holiday Prayerbooks. Again, a wonderful donation!
The third community I have been at for 17 years. We have a traditional Friday night service, although I added guitar around 6 months ago. There is a balance between Hebrew and English. We have gone through transitions. We also have an interesting situation. In the All Purpose Room where I conduct services, we usually get a nice crowd, although, again, there is a fairly good size Jewish population. In the lobby, there is another crowd every Shabbat, a smaller group of people. The sit outside our service, listen to the service and schmooze. After the service I always offer my other minyan to join us in the oneg. I want them included no matter whether they join us or not. In fact, maybe in their way, they do join us. We had a pretty good showing for the evening High Holiday Services between residents, extended family and my annual service comers, but it was weak this year because the papers did not include us.
When I am asked why more people do not come, I tell them that not everybody feels the need for prayer. Many do not understand community, k’hila. At the senior communities, there are choices. Playing cards, movies, or just staying in their rooms. There are people who cannot come down.
As you can see, I am not comfortable calling these places nursing homes. I call them senior communities. The term nursing homes sounds like it is the last stop before seniors pass away. In many cases it is, but they are still communities. I think calling these facilities senior communities gives the residents more dignity, more respect.
Another year, new adventures, new experiences are on the way.
I wish you all a Shana Tova, a happy, wonderful, year.