Posted by Barbara Sternfield

created at: 2011-05-09As we usher in the New Year, and I pause to reflect on the year gone by, I am reminded how privileged I am to lead Shabbat services in non-sectarian nursing homes and assisted living facilities for frail Jewish elders.

Every Friday, I pack my Shabbat bag with delicious challah, a Kiddush cup for reciting the blessing over the wine, Shabbat candles, and prayer booklets designed by JF&CS Jewish Healing Connections to lead Shabbat services in a variety of facilities. In serving elders who typically feel isolated and marginalized, I serve as a meaningful representative and bridge to the Jewish community and to their cultural heritage.

For nearly 18 years I have been blessed to do this sacred work as part of the award-winning Nursing Home/Assisted Living Shabbat and Holiday Program through Jewish Healing Connections. Our program has reached more than 1,000 Jewish residents (as well as non-Jews seeking spiritual sustenance and connection) in more than 20 facilities, enabling them to gather in shared prayer, uplifting song, and inspirational readings. The spiritual experience of being together in community touches a place of familiarity and comfort and reinforces a sense of belonging. For some, it’s the only time they gather with other Jewish residents. How fortunate I am to share the sacred rituals and texts of our tradition with this special community of elders.

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