Jewish Eldercare of Rhode Island (JERI) is a program of the Jewish Seniors Agency that brings Jewish traditions, values and Yiddishkeit to our seniors who live in nursing homes and assisted-living residences.
As outreach program coordinator for JERI, I join activity programmer Dori Adler in visiting residents, and conducting Shabbat services and discussion and holiday programs. This spring, JERI will bring Passover to Jewish seniors by conducting more than 30 seders in nursing homes and assisted-living residences.
Many of these seniors would be isolated if not for JERI. Through these visits and programs, residents begin to feel as if they are JERI “family.” They welcome and enjoy these special visits – just as JERI staff and volunteers do.
During one recent Hanukkah program, the blessings over the candles were sung and the story of Hanukkah was told. “Miriam,” who is non-verbal, typically responds during programs with eye contact and smiles. On this visit, she was unresponsive – until I sang the Yiddish song “Hanukkah Oy Hanukkah.” Miriam opened her eyes and turned her head as tears ran down her cheeks.
During Shabbat services, familiar melodies often lead to sing-alongs as remembrances surface of family Shabbats from years gone by.
I also visit The Miriam and Rhode Island hospitals weekly, bringing comfort and support to patients and their families. And JERI is called on to say special prayers for those nearing the end of life.
JERI’s volunteer outreach program, CHAVER (Caring Helpers and Visitors Empowering Residents), matches friendly volunteers with Jewish seniors. After initial training, volunteers visit elders at least once a month. One volunteer recently commented that she loves making her monthly visits and never realized the impact it would have on her.
Contact Susie Adler at 401-621-5374 if you would like to join the CHAVER team and make a difference for R.I.’s Jewish seniors.