Estelle Wexler remembers a time when there were many activities for seniors. “The Greenwood Inn in Beaverton used to have a seniors Shabbat luncheon; that’s how I met everybody I knew when I moved here 25 years ago. The JCC also had a lot of programs that were good for seniors. We used to go there for an early Shabbat dinner and then head off to our individual shuls for services. But they’re (the programs) not around anymore.”
Helen Bernstein agrees. She has worked with many seniors, both as the former executive director of Store to Door and, before that, as the director of senior adult programming at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan.
“I have strong feelings about this,” she says. “I am part of a group of retired Jewish women friends who are often looking for interesting things to do. The Rose Schnitzer Manor does have some great activities. But we need more good, affordable programming in places that have public transportation as well as excellent parking.”
Estelle is involved at Neveh Shalom, and she does enjoy the new monthly Culture Café lunch at Cedar Sinai Park. It costs $5, is open to everybody andfeatures speakers she says are terrific. But it’s not enough. “How do we get the senior activities back up?” she wonders. Estelle is one of several Neveh Shalom members who have been urging Neveh Shalom Program Director Jennifer Greenberg to do something about it. The synagogue used to host the “lunch bunch” gatherings that have become the Culture Café. Its success spurred Jennifer to think about where else she could send her lunch bunch members.
So she called Laura Fendel, the new program director at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center.While there is clearly a need for more programming, the truth is many synagogues and organizations do have activities that they publicize to their members. Wouldn’t it be fabulous, mused Jennifer and Laura, if (a) activities were open to members and non-members alike and (b) people in the community-at-large actually knew about them? And so was born the idea for “Everything YAH: Everything for the Young At Heart,” a monthly program guide to Jewish community activities “for boomers +,” with the tagline “Doors Open” to emphasize that every activity is open to anybody.
Then Jennifer and Laura hit the phones. They quickly found that other organizations also recognize the need for cultural, educational and recreational activities to be widely available. The response has been gratifying. These are the organizations involved so far: Cedar Sinai Park; Congregations Beth Israel, Neveh Shalom and Shaarie Torah; Havurah Shalom; GrapeVine; Jewish Family & Child Service; Jewish Federation of Greater Portland; Melton; MJCC; and the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education. The women are still reaching out to others, and the first edition of the program guide is due out early in November.
“Please stress the ‘doors open’ part,” urges Laura. “Too often people don’t go to something because they feel they don’t belong. Everyone should feel comfortable and welcome going to a variety of places for their programming and events, even when they aren’t members.”
Liz Rabiner Lippoff is a freelance writer and a medical marketing consultant. Liz, ink: LizInk.biz.