By Howard Elling
“Al Tashlichainu l’ais ziknah”, “do not cast us aside in our old age” (Selichos [ital]). Our Baltimore community is blessed with a number of assisted living, as well as nursing home facilities to service the needs of our local elderly & infirm. In addition to attending to their medical requisites, these facilities also engage their residents in a myriad of activities to address spiritual & creative needs. Among these pursuits are the weekend recitations of Kiddush and Havdalah. Since 2007, a group of volunteers has, on a rotational basis, fulfilled these sacred functions at Aventura at the Park (formerly Weinberg Park). Founded by Rabbi Alexander Seinfeld of Jewish Spiritual Literacy, the program is formally called Love Your Neighbor and boasts a volunteer staff of 9 participants, including yours truly.
Kiddush and Havdalah are recited when all residents are gathered, typically in the dining hall for lunch. Consistent with recommended protocol & in order to embellish the event, I make it a point to start with either a short story or a song. As I deliver my presentation, I gaze out at the audience in front of me & detect, with satisfaction, the full attention the residents are giving me. I truly believe this phenomenon derives from a sense of appreciation each one feels. One only has to reflect & realize that, for the majority of each day, these residents are deprived of the presence of their loved ones. Hence, it is only natural that they look forward to Kiddush & Havdalah with a sense of anticipation.
Several other senior facilities in Baltimore have hosted Love Your Neighbor programs in past years. However, at present, none of the other like facilities in our neighborhoods offers any such arrangements. Instead, weekly Kiddush/Havdalah functions fall each week to, typically, a lone administrator with no backup. Accordingly, an effort is currently underway to extend the Aventura at the Park model to the following care facilities:
- Aventura at the Heights, formerly Tudor Heights (Friday night Kiddush & Sunday Havdalah)
- Sterling Care Assisted Living (Daytime Kiddush & Sunday Havdalah)
- Levindale Hebrew & Geriatric Center (Sunday Havdalah only)
- King David Nursing & Rehabilitation Center (Daytime Kiddush & Sunday Havdalah)
In order to expand these services, a cadre of volunteers is currently being solicited. To express your interest, kindly email your full name, contact no. & facility preference(s) to: Playitagain642000@yahoo.com, preferably by Nov. 20. Imagine, 10 minutes is all it takes to bring joy & vibrancy to our resident community seniors.
………“Kichlos kocheinu al ta’azvainu”,”when our strength ebbs, do not forsake us”.