With Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 18-19) fast approaching, JCS’s Jewish Eldercare of Rhode Island (JERI) Program Coordinator Susie Adler and Jeri Activity Programmer Dori Adler are thinking creatively about how to bring the holiday’s sweetness to Jewish individuals in nursing homes and assisted living residences, given COVID-restrictions.
“We’re talking about revamping and shortening our Rosh Hashanah service,” said Susie. “We plan to videotape the service and demonstrate the rituals of dipping apples in the honey, reciting the blessings over the challah and the wine, etc. We’ll then send a copy of the video to activity directors at area nursing homes and assisted living residences so that Jewish residents can have some holiday experiences.” Susie hopes for a sponsor for this initiative so that the financial burden doesn’t fall exclusively on the Friends of Jewish Seniors (a group of fundraising volunteers at JCS). “Other acts of sweetness came seniors’ way, as Herb Meister, a Newport resident, and longtime JCS volunteer, underwrote the cost of buying and distributing Hershey kisses to nearly 270 Jewish seniors in congregate living facilities”, said Susie.
Earlier this year, for Passover, Susie and Dori delivered more than 30 Pesach bags with a Haggadah, gefilte fish, matzah, macaroons, and charoset, which was made by Executive Chef Deb Blazar at Tamarisk Assisted Living Residence. Only a few facilities were willing to accept such food deliveries at that time, said Susie, but more recently – as restrictions eased – they delivered 106 candy bars, each with a wrapper – created by JCS’ Marketing and Communications Manager Jessica Murphy – that said: “We’re missing you.” The Friends of Jewish Seniors underwrote the cost of special snacks for Tamarisk residents during the early days of the pandemic-driven shutdown.
Throughout the lockdown, Susie and Dori regularly reach out to activity directors and residents by phone and mail; some phone or FaceTime calls are challenging, as residents’ hearing may be too impaired for effective communication. “We hear from residents who say, ‘Thank you for thinking of us; it’s so nice to know that someone is staying in touch,’” said Susie, after receiving her weekly Shabbat email and other communications.
“So many residents think Dori and I are family and wish we could come and visit them,” said Susie, who shares her cell phone number with everyone and often fields phone calls from lonely seniors late into the evening. “If they need something, they can always call me; and some people call to see if we’re OK!”
Susie, who is also a certified dementia practitioner, hopes that the day they can visit Jewish seniors and bring Judaism back into their lives is not too distant. She quotes her brother, Rabbi Elan Adler, who says, “There is a light at the end of the tunnel; we just don’t know how long the tunnel is.”
To learn about sponsoring the Rosh Hashanah packages or for more information, contact Susie Adler at 401.486-3890 or Susie@jfsri.org.