Due to COVID-19 restrictions still being in place over the High Holidays, older adults living in assisted living residences didn’t get a chance to visit and celebrate with loved ones in person this year. Thanks to committed staff, however, the holidays were not without their meaning.
One such staff person is Pastor Diane McCready, chaplain at Country Meadows in Allentown.
“As part of the holistic approach we take toward the lives of all residents, we have done our best to cultivate and nurture the spiritual lives of our Jewish residents,” noted McCready.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Country Meadows had visits from Jewish clergy on a regular basis, as well as volunteers from Jewish Family Service who would join residents for Shabbat and lunch. Most weeks, a group would also be taken to Friendship Circle at the JCC.
Because of necessary precautions, these events have come to a temporary halt. Yet, McCready knew with the High Holy Days approaching, she would have to find a way to fill in the gaps.
“We have a delightful and robust Jewish community here and have been working hard to take good care of them. This year, in Cantor Ellen Sussman’s absence, we are doing our best to fill in the gaps. Thank goodness we have a good relationship with folks from Temple Beth El and Congregation Keneseth Israel, as well as ongoing contact with family members of our Jewish residents. We were able to have a member of TBE come on campus to blow the shofar—signifying that Rosh Hashanah was approaching. This gentleman was kind enough to make a presentation in front of our various buildings so that all levels of care could hear the shofar—a mitzvah for this holiday. The event was well-attended,” said McCready.
Televisions were also connected to the 10 a.m. Rosh Hashanah main service from TBE via iPads in each level of care on the Country Meadows Allentown campus. Prayer books on loan were available for the service so that those residents who are able could follow along in the liturgy. Goody bags with grape juice, challah, and apples and honey were also made for the residents.
Elsewhere in the Valley, similar celebrations occurred. At Legend of Allentown, the life enrichment department hosted a discussion group about Rosh Hashanah to learn about the customs of the Jewish neighbors in the community. In addition to the educational experience, they also have a themed social to enjoy the Jewish New Year.
At Devon House Senior Living, Laura Crossan, director of marketing, said, “We accommodate traditional Jewish holidays with cultural foods and lighting of candles. For instance, the two-day holiday features challah, apples with honey, gefilte fish, brisket, pomegranate salad, honey cake and various other dishes in the tradition of the holiday.”
Atria Bethlehem also made sure the holiday was special in a few different ways.
“We did have a program about the history of Rosh Hashanah so that our Jewish and non-Jewish residents could learn a bit more about the history and traditions. We also received Mazel Meals and gifts from Jewish Family Service of the Lehigh Valley; and the residents here received a special package from Atria filled with honey sticks, dried apples and chocolate. Our residents also attended a virtual service hosted by Rabbi Singer of Brith Sholom here in Bethlehem,” said Atria Engage Life Director Nicole Verret.
With Sukkot following Rosh Hashanah this month, activities are already planned for more celebrations.