By Laura Rigge
Some of the Jewish residents at Country Meadows in Allentown hadn’t been able to partake in Shabbat services for years, and many missed the opportunity to engage with the Jewish community on a spiritual level.
Carol Wilson, senior facilities coordinator at Jewish Family Service, wanted to bring that spiritual connection to the seniors she visited. “In our conversations, Jewish residents have expressed to me how they miss the sounds, smells and taste of Shabbat. They particularly miss saying Kaddish for their loved ones.”
In response, JFS brought Shabbat to the residents. Wilson organized a dinner at Coun¬try Meadows on June 19 as part of a pilot pro¬gram that aims to bring shabbat celebrations to seniors in facilities across the Lehigh Valley.
Cantor Kevin Wartell of Temple Beth El created a program that incorporated songs and prayers that had the whole room singing, praying and sharing their stories with one another. The residents and volunteers could follow along with the service in transliter¬ated Hebrew with an English translation. “To watch the looks on their faces as they listened to the melodies and chanted the prayers to¬gether was very moving,” Wilson said.
After singing, toasting and enjoying each other’s company, everyone broke challah to¬gether before eating the kosher-style dinner of roast chicken prepared by the staff of Country Meadows.
JFS plans to create a Shabbat Box that will have everything volunteers will need to conduct similar services at senior facilities across the Lehigh Valley. Wilson hopes that people throughout the community will join future events. “The Shabbat Outreach Ser¬vice is a wonderful volunteer opportunity,” Wilson said. “Individuals, families and youth groups can volunteer to lead Shabbat services and bring the light of Shabbat to our Jewish seniors.” People who prefer a more behind-the-scenes role can participate by baking a dessert or baking challah with the residents in the morning.
"This is truly a community effort,” said Wilson of the program. “Our Shabbat service is another way to engage our community and shine a spotlight on the needs of our Jewish seniors.”
If you would like to learn more about this program, please contact Carol Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.