Jewish Senior Living magazine   2017/2018

HUGS AND HIGH FIVES WHEN GENERATIONS GREET AND GATHER

What happens when a bunch of seventh graders spend an hour each week with a bunch of seniors?

The wheels of the bus went round and round, bringing bright, enthusiastic students from The Brandeis School of San Francisco’s middle school to Jewish Home residents, the two generations sharing in weeks of interaction, learning, and pure pleasure.

It blossoms into a love affair!

That is exactly what transpired when Jody Bloom, Judaic Studies teacher at The Brandeis School of San Francisco’s middle school, took 20 students, aged 12 and 13, to the Jewish Home on Friday afternoons during the 2017 spring semester. “It was amazing,” she enthuses. “The students just loved it, and I loved seeing the hugs hello and the high fives.”

“It was really cool to meet the Jewish Home’s residents and to hear their stories,” Eugenia “Jane” Schvartsman says happily.

“It seemed that every time we came they were just as excited to see us.”

This intergenerational program was an elective class at Brandeis. There are a number of activities from which students can choose, Jody describes, including sports, art, and drama. “There are so many awesome choices, so the kids wanting to spend their time to meet and interact with seniors is really wonderful,” she applauds.

Jody prepped the students beforehand, providing background material on the Jewish Home, as well as basics about communicating with older adults, many of whom could have hearing problems. They learned the correct way to manipulate a wheelchair and heard a talk on Alzheimer’s disease. Jody worked with Mediatrix Valera, the Home’s Life Enrichment director, to plan the program’s calendar. Many of the sessions were holiday-related and included an art project the two generations did jointly.

For the Jewish holiday of Purim, for example, student Kaira Shlipak recalls they made masks and costumes. “I really like talking with older people, so I enjoyed being able to sit and do an art project together and share stories.”

Kaira established a special relationship with a resident based upon their mutual admiration of the Golden State Warriors. “We’re both big basketball fans,” she confirms. “I’d meet with John almost every week and we’d talk about the games. We had a good connection – even though his favorite player is Steph Curry and mine is Andre Iguodala.”

As for fellow student Jane, learning about the Holocaust from resident Rudy Hooremans (who survived as a youth and wrote a short book about his experiences that he read to the group) was a meaningful experience. “I never met a Holocaust survivor before,” Jane reveals. “Rudy put in so much detail – every sound, every color. I told him how much I liked his book and his face kind of lit up. It was so moving.” (The fact that Rudy died a few months later makes their connection even more poignant.)

Both Kaira and Jane have elderly family members or neighbors with whom they enjoy talking; this elective reinforced the rewards of their intergenerational relationships.

“This experience helped me to be better at it,” Jane observes.

“My parents love that I did it,” Kaira says.

The feedback from the residents was equally favorable. With her own flair for the creative, resident Joyce Scharf was most positive about the program. “The kids were fun to be with. It’s good to support the creativity of young people and encourage them to do artwork,” she says.

Stephen Heffner particularly enjoyed hanging out with the youngsters. “They’re so positive,” he says. “They remind me of my grandchildren. An enthusiastic group of young people who really want to be involved and enjoy having discussions. I call them mitzvah kids.”

Jody Bloom, the shining jewel of Judaic Studies, makes sure her students Jane Schvartsman (left) and Zoe Wulfstat have the stuff they need to create Passover Seder plates.

A teachable moment. Student Kaira Shlipak becomes the authority, showing her resident partner what they are going to put on their mock Seder plate.

Looking delighted (their smiles speak volumes) with the Purim mask they have fashioned is resident Roslyn Levitt and student Julian Rapaport.

 

Disclaimer

Website content that still bears the names Jewish Home of San Francisco and Jewish Home reflects material that is in circulation or was published before we became San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living – on which Jewish Home & Rehab Center, our acute geriatric psychiatry hospital, and the new Lynne & Roy M. Frank Residences and Byer Square are located. Wherever possible, new and updated website content will bear our new names.

 
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