“If it weren’t for Dori Adler, the Jewish Eldercare of Rhode Island (JERI)’s part-time program coordinator, and me, many elderly Jewish residents living in Rhode Island’s assisted living facilities or nursing homes wouldn’t see anyone else except staff, as their family and friends have passed,” said Susie Adler, the coordinator of Jewish Eldercare of Rhode Island (JERI) and a certified dementia practitioner. Susie, who earned a degree in gerontology in 1985 from Rhode Island College and cared for her own parents, the late Edward and Gertrude Adler, until their passing, said, “So many times we go in to console them, and yet they console us.”
JERI, originally a program of the Jewish Seniors Agency, brings Jewish traditions, values and Yiddishkeit to those individuals; even those professing no ties to Judaism often perk up when they hear Susie sing traditional Shabbat or holiday melodies. While visiting a woman who was unconscious and nearing death, Susie learned from her family members that she liked klezmer music. With 21st century technology – YouTube and a smart phone – Susie played some klezmer tunes, which started the woman’s feet moving in time to the beat. “Her family was with me when I did it… our jaws dropped,” she said.
Currently, about a dozen active CHAVER volunteers visit seniors in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. A JERI program, CHAVER, which means “friend” in Hebrew and stands for Caring Helpers and Visitors Empower Residents, supplements the monthly visits Susie and Dori make. After receiving training, CHAVER volunteers are generally matched with one or more individuals, to foster relationships with those they visit for 30 minutes or so on a regular basis; some visit weekly, others monthly. Acknowledging that visiting a complete stranger for the first time might feel awkward, Susie and Dori are happy to accompany new CHAVER volunteers on their initial visits. “It doesn’t matter if you’re Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist or unaffiliated; if you want to reach out to our Jewish seniors, we’re happy to have you,” she said. Susie hopes to re-invigorate a JERI program, Just to Say Shalom, where volunteers call homebound Jewish seniors each week to ask how they are and to wish them Shabbat Shalom.
Susie, Dori and their CHAVER visitors derive joy from seeing the reactions of those they visit. “Their faces light up; they might not know our names, but they know we love them unconditionally,” she said. “We’re here to visit; we’re not here to lecture or give medication or deliver a bad diagnosis. We’re here to be friends. We have no judgment, and they can tell us anything they want.”
When Susie hosts holiday services – sometimes for a group, sometimes for a single resident – emotions and memories are often triggered. In one instance, Susie introduced herself to one nonverbal Jewish resident and explained that she was about to lead a Hanukkah program for her. Susie began to chant the blessings over the candles and offered the woman jelly donuts. “She had no reactions at all, until I started to sign ‘Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah’ in Yiddish,” Susie said. “She picked up her head, opened her eyes and stared at me with tears running down her face. That was her connection; it resonated for her.”
Given the relationships she and Dori develop with patients, their deaths can deeply affect them. “They’re our extended family,” said Susie. “Jewish Collaborative Services staff members are wonderful; they know when something happens. They’ll give me a hug and be supportive.”
To learn more about volunteering with JCS’ CHAVER or Just to Say Shalom, contact Susie Adler at Susie@jfsri.org or 401-331-1244, ext. 366.
According to Myrna and Hershey Rosen, who have been longtime supporters of Jewish Family Service, and who have committed a gift toward our $4 million campaign, the reason they give to JCS is simple – “It makes us feel good to know that others will benefit from the services and programs that JCS provides. Specifically, the JCS has allowed us to create and administer the Sunshine Fund, which provides a ray of sunshine to individuals – whatever “sunshine” may mean.”
JCS Past Present Future Campaign is a “comprehensive” $4 million campaign, explains Sara Ades Goodwin, Director of Major Gifts. The Campaign was established with three goals: To raise funds to purchase our own building (capital); to set aside funds in perpetuity for building maintenance costs (endowment); and to increase our future sustainability by offering multi-year giving and naming opportunities of $1,000 and greater, payable over a five-year-period, and which could be unrestricted or donor-designated to a specific program or service.
“We are delighted that we have raised, to date, $3,213,872, so we’re well on our way to achieving our $4 million goal,” adds Goodwin, who appreciates witnessing the joy donors experience through knowing how their donations make a positive difference. “We encourage donors to contribute to a program or area that is particularly meaningful to them or to make a gift in honor or in memory of a loved one.”
Feeling unable to write one more check to one more worthwhile agency? If so, JCS still needs you: There are many volunteer opportunities to engage with the community and support JCS’ mission. JCS, a single entity created from two longstanding organizations, JSA and JFS, has so many programs, services and senior housing opportunities to both Jewish and non-Jewish individuals and/or families throughout the greater Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts communities.
While not all donors want or need public recognition, Goodwin says that a number of naming opportunities exist. Donors can designate how their contributions are used: Unrestricted donations, which are the preferred and most common type of donation, are allocated by senior management to the initiatives most in need of support, while restricted donations support a specific designation, capital improvements or may be endowed in perpetuity. All options are entirely directed by the donor.
Whether you’re a longtime supporter of Jewish Family Services and/or Jewish Seniors Agency or have never donated, we welcome your engagement and support. Past, Present, Future Host Co-Chairs Peri Ann Aptaker, a past president of JFS, and her husband Robert Lieberman, identified a wonderful past presidents’ initiative. They asked all the past presidents of both JFS and JSA to purchase the mezzuzot throughout the JCS building, and the response was outstanding, with 15 past presidents participating!
After more than a century – 107 years to be exact – a women-centric initiative that raised money to improve the lives of Rhode Island’s Jewish seniors is welcoming men. Long known as the Women’s Association of the Jewish Seniors Agency (the “Women’s Association”), the organization changed its name, at its October 2018 annual meeting, to the Friends of Jewish Seniors of Jewish Collaborative Services) ”Friends of Jewish Seniors”).
Do you love to knit, enjoy spending time with like-minded men and women who value our seniors, have a flair for decorating, event-planning or gift-wrapping; enjoy knitting sweaters, hats, and afghans for babies and toddlers to sell in the organization’s Knit Shop; or simply want to give back to our community on a time-limited basis, the Friends of Jewish Seniors encourages your participation, engagement, and membership. “One of our commandments is ‘Honor thy father and mother,’” says Niecie Weiner, president of the Friends of Jewish Seniors, and a current board member of JCS and former Jewish Seniors Agency (JSA) board member. “What better way to do that than to honor the Jewish seniors in Rhode Island?”
Just as the Women’s Association raised funds to support programs and housing for Jewish seniors, so, too, does the Friends of Jewish Seniors, which seeks new members, says Weiner, whose maternal grandmother, Annabelle Mutchnick, and parents, Harold and Marcia Gerstein, volunteered independently at the Jewish Home. She recalls, laughing, “My grandmother, then in her 70s, before heading to the Jewish Home, would say, ‘I’m going to visit the old people.””
Recently, the Friends of Jewish Seniors donated $10,000 to purchase 10 glider chairs for residents in The Phyllis Siperstein Tamarisk RI Assisted Living Residence (“Tamarisk”) Renaissance Memory Support Unit, says Weiner, who explained that these glider chairs are very safe and stable. The group also underwrites the cost of the food and beverages for Shabbat services and holiday programs for Jewish seniors in nursing homes and assisted living facilities that JCS staffers – Susie Adler, coordinator of Jewish Eldercare of Rhode Island (JERI) and a certified dementia practitioner, and Dori Adler, JERI’s part-time activity coordinator lead. Additionally, the group paid for Bluetooth speakers so nursing home and assisted living facility residents could hear Jewish and Yiddish music.
Lauding Susie Adler and Dori Adler as well as her colleagues, Myrna Levine, secretary, and Roberta Schneider, vice president, for their contributions, Weiner says, “This work affirms our Jewish values, for me. Hearing Susie and Dori share stories about the impact of their programs is very heart-warming, too.” A former JSA board member and current JCS board member, Levine also served on the Partnership Committee which was instrumental in negotiating the formation of JCS.
A long and meaningful history
How did the Women’s Association come to be? Four Jewish women responded to an urgent request from a local physician, concerned that four poor elderly Jewish men were improperly housed in the state mental hospital in Cranston. That outreach – more than 100 years ago – led to the creation of the Women’s Association – which had several different names before becoming the Women’s Association in 2000 – and the first Jewish Home in Rhode Island, thanks to dedicated fundraising efforts by many Jewish women in Rhode Island.
At its heyday, recounts Weiner, the Jewish Home was located on Hillside Avenue in Providence. “The women used to have linen luncheons to raise money to purchase bedding, sheets, towels, etc., for the residents; they could raise $30,000 to $40,000 at a single luncheon,” she says. “Then, these very bright women – generally not working outside the home – were ingenious and dedicated in helping the seniors at the Jewish Home.”
With the closing of the Jewish Home in the 1990s, the Women’s Association stepped up to raise money for JSA Adult Day Center and, eventually, Tamarisk, says Weiner, with pride. “We all take care of each other, and being there for the seniors, among the frailest of our populations, is very important. Being there [for the elderly] to show respect and to show that people still care for them is so important.” The Friends of Jewish Seniors are committed, she adds, to continuing this long-standing mission.
Join author and former Director of the Department of the Rhode Island Department of Health Michael Fine, MD for a reading from his novel, “Abundance”. The book is a love story that travels from the streets of Rhode Island to the civil war in Liberia.
Join us Friday, July 19th at 3:00 at The Phyllis Siperstein Tamarisk Assisted Living Residence in the Community Room.
On May 5, 2019, we celebrated the marriage of Jewish Seniors Agency and Jewish Family Service and the creation of Jewish Collaborative Services. View our online tribute journal as well as pictures from the gala here.
Special thanks go out to our event hosts, Peri Ann Aptaker & Bobby Lieberman and Judy & Arthur Robbins, and to our event chair, Sharon Sock.
Full Plate volunteers Michael and Paula Goldberg invite others to join the fun
Michael and Paula Goldberg, stalwart volunteers each week at The Louis & Goldie Chester Full Plate Kosher Food Pantry (The Full Plate), shared their thoughts about why they do it.
When did you start volunteering at The Full Plate?
Paula: I lost my job teaching Family and Consumer Science (also called Home Economics) at Warwick Veterans Memorial High School when the department was eliminated in 2009. I saw a notice in The Jewish Voice & Herald about a need for volunteers. I am working part-time now, so I volunteer once a week, whenever my work schedule allows.
Michael: I didn’t want to sit around and twiddle my thumbs after I retired from my industrial sales position in 2016. Paula encouraged me to join her, and I did.
What’s the appeal? Why continue to volunteer?
Michael: Paula used to volunteer at a soup kitchen at Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Warwick; the minister there often said – when asked how he was – “I am grateful.” That struck me as a wonderful response, given how fortunate we have been in our lives. I enjoy the people we volunteer with and meeting the clients… they are delightful.
Paula: Volunteering here is an extension of what I taught high school students. When we did a unit on basic human needs, students visited a variety of agencies in Rhode Island that helped their clients meet their needs for clothing, food and shelter. Students often brought toiletries, food or clothing for agencies to give to their clients. I was looking for something worthwhile and I like helping people meet their basic human needs. And, what’s more basic than food? I also have made wonderful friends with staff and other volunteers and I enjoy interacting with the clients.
Now that The Full Plate is in JCS’ new offices on North Main Street in Providence, is anything new or different?
Michael: There were many people who couldn’t get to the old location on Niantic Avenue (where Jewish Seniors Agency was located), so we’d deliver food to them.
Paula: Now, more people visit the North Main Street location, as it’s closer to many clients’ homes. They are able to come in and choose their own food.
Foods most in demand?
Paula: Our Russian clients always ask for kasha, borscht and matzah; they eat matzah even when it’s not Passover.
Message to those considering volunteering?
Paula: It’s very rewarding; we get to meet people from all walks of life, and volunteering here definitely makes a difference in people’s lives. The staff from Jewish Eldercare of Rhode Island (JERI) at Jewish Seniors Agency and JCS have all been very welcoming.
Michael: I’ve been reading articles about countries whose residents are happier… they report that volunteering and helping others is good for our own self-worth and sense of happiness. Volunteering gives you a purpose.
Other volunteer projects?
Paula: Through West Bay Community Jewish Center, I started the McAuley House Baking Project, and when we joined Temple Emanu-El, volunteer bakers were recruited from there, as well. The project has grown to include neighbors and friends and relatives of other bakers. A few of the JCS staff members “stress bake” and don’t want to eat what they make, so they have contributed to the project as well. Bakers are asked to bake a double batch of a dessert item and bring their baked goods (without nuts) to me once a month for delivery to McAuley House, a multi-faceted social services agency that serves lunch to approximately 300 people each day.
Michael: We both serve on the board of our local library and volunteer at Tamarisk (The Phyllis Siperstein Tamarisk Assisted Living Residence), and I deliver Kosher Meals on Wheels once a week, too.
Paula: We are lucky to have found a volunteer position that we look forward to going to each week. As a Jewish mother, I am happy to see people be able to put food on their plate.
Want to “stress bake” for the McAuley House Baking Project? Contact Paula Goldberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to volunteer at The Full Plate? Contact Marcie Ingber (401) 331-1244