Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Life Care Center embraces Jewish culture for a New Year


Life Care resident and Jewish Pavilion regular Thelma Kaellis (front) enjoys apples and honey served by Steven Paltrow (center), Food Services director, while activities director Angela Gauthier(back left) and volunteer Steven Wolf pass out challah and honey cake in celebration of the New Year.

On Friday Sept. 5, 10 residents of Life Care Center were treated to an early Rosh Hashanah service led by Program Director Julie Levitt, with volunteer Stephen Wolf accompanying the festivities on the shofar.

"Rosh Hashanah brings a new year and a fresh outlook to Life Care Center (LCC) in Altamonte Springs. Recently, the staff at Life Care has gone out of their way to embrace their Jewish residents and to support their culture. Activities Director Angela Gauthier prepared a beautiful dining room with homey touches like fresh cut flowers and an embroidered table cloth for our recent Rosh Hashanah celebration that was as lovely as if had taken place in any of our homes," stated Pavilion Executive Director Nancy Ludin.

Levitt noted that the new holiday decor, including the holiday inspired tablecloth, the challah cover complete with challah knife, the kiddush cups, and the candlesticks created an atmosphere that made the Jewish residents feel comfortable and welcome. Levitt stated, "Most importantly, the residents felt like their needs had been remembered, and their heritage had not been forgotten."

Laurice Elgin, hospital liaison for LCC, takes pride in making Life Care a place all residents can call home. Elgin shared that she raised her family in South Florida alongside her Jewish neighbors. She stated, "We celebrated our holidays with close friends who were Jewish. We took part in each others celebrations and learned from each other's family traditions."

Elgin looks forward to celebrating holidays throughout the year with her Jewish residents, and acknowledges the importance of cultural continuity in the nursing home setting.

"It took a village" to conduct the Rosh Hashanah service, and prayers and text were read by participating seniors, Pavilion and Life Care staff, while volunteer, Sally Kopke of Vitas Innovative Hospice served slices of challah along with a traditional honey cake. Executive Director Jeff Thomas joined in the reading, and Steven Paltrow, Food Services director, came out from the kitchen to pour an extra dollop of honey onto the sliced apples. Ludin stated, "Taking part in our activities makes everyone feel invested. Its important to see the positive impact on our seniors up-close and first-hand."

Marketing Director Lisa Laudato invested more than just time and money to make the "New Year effect" last all year long. She stated, "I want our seniors to continue to have experiences that are meaningful to them."

Lisa Laudato, Business Development director for Life Care Center, shows off her first mezuzah.

Recently, Joanne Berman brought her mobile Judaica store to LCC to help the nursing home enhance the Pavilion's holiday programming. Laudato, Eligin, and Gauthier enjoyed the home shopping experience, and purchased holiday items.

Laudato was so moved by the Judaic objects that she was inspired to buy a mezuzah to adorn her own home. LCC resident and Pavilion regular Thelma Kaellis admired a mezuzah from Berman's collection but could not cover the $20 purchase price. Laudato remarked, "Laurice and I looked at each other with tears in our eyes, and bought the mezuzah for Thelma."

Ludin concluded, "We are so grateful to Life Care Center, not just for purchasing objects to make its Jewish residents feel more at home, but for 'buying into' the need for cultural continuity for all its seniors."


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