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

Pavilion seniors experience shared history at Lunch and Learn


Oakmonte Village residents and Pavilion Lunch and Learn participants Rae Masin and Judith Kaye.

While the Pavilion has been breaking bread with seniors in long-term care since 1998, there is much more to the organization beyond the challah. Executive Director Nancy Ludin noted, "Lunch and Learn serves as a great example of how the Pavilion enhances the lives of seniors all year round, and not just during the holidays. Program Director Cathy Swerdlow, an experienced instructor in both Judaica and history, leads a bi-monthly discussion at Oakmonte Village in Lake Mary that promotes healthy aging through on-going education. Seniors in long-term care have a real need for mental stimulation, which is evidenced by the more than 50 seniors who attended Swerdlow's class."

The most recent Lunch and Learn was held on Thursday Oct. 9, focusing on noted Jews in American history from 1850 to the present. Swerdlow shared that the day's lesson was the second part of a two-part lesson, which began with the American Revolution.

"Our seniors value education, and have been learning their entire lives," she remarked. "This shouldn't stop just because they have moved to an elder facility. Lunch and Learn allows our seniors to draw on their past experiences, and to sharpen their minds by learning something new. The class reaches the seniors in so many different and unexpected ways."

Swerdlow's latest Lunch and Learn took a very personal turn for a handful of audience members, as some came to realize that the history from the day's lesson overlapped with their own life experience. Others in attendance were reminded of historical events that had touched their own lives. In a discussion following class, participant Judith Kaye said, "It stirs me to see these (noted Jews in history) people as individuals," as she marveled that her own family members had been touched by the accomplishments of these notable figures. Kaye became teary eyed both during class and afterwards when she referred to the poem "The New Colossus," which was read by Swerdlow as part of a discussion about poet Emma Lazarus.

"When Cathy read the words 'give me your poor, you're tired, you're hungry' (which are written on the base of the Statue of Liberty), it reminded me of my parents. When I read Lazarus' words on the Statue of Liberty several years ago, I realized that my parents had seen those same words when they first came to this country," said Kaye.

The hour-long presentation began with a discussion of the role of Jewish Americans during the Civil War. Afterwards, attendee Zelda Siskind summed up the presentation stating, "Cathy Swerdlow is always very interesting. She talked about the Jews in the South and in the North during the Civil War and afterwards. She named names of Jewish people in history, and (the reasons) why we remember them."

Attendee Rae Masin, a Georgia native, explained that there was a closeness and sense of pride amongst Southern Jews, who had to work harder to make a Jewish community than those in the more populated Northeast. Masin is well versed in Georgia history, and added personal insight to the infamous Leo Frank trial, which had been a topic conversation. During class, Swerdlow recounted that Frank had been a Jewish American factory superintendent who was convicted of murder in the Old South. Frank was hanged by an anti-Semitic lynch mob near Atlanta in 1915. Masin grew up in Marietta, Georgia, close to where Franks' story took place. "I know where that tree was, and (Frank's story) always scared me," he shared.

Enjoying the Jewish Pavilion Lunch and Learn are Becca Leifer with her grandmother, Zelda Siskind.

Twenty-four-year-old Becca Leifer attended the Lunch and Learn along with her grandmother, Zelda Siskind. The graduate student noted how each experience with the Pavilion affected her grandmother in a very personal way, as well. "My grandmother loves Cathy Swerdlow, and attends anything she has to offer. My grandparents were very active in the Sanford Jewish community. It means so much to her to stay connected," Leifer said.

Miriam B. Cohen is a newer resident to Oakmonte Village, and Lunch and Learn was her first Pavilion offering. She remarked, "This class (and the Pavilion) is something worthy and worthwhile." Cohen shared that the Pavilion was serving a need that wasn't offered by any other organization, and that she was pleased and impressed with her first sampling. She plans on attending the next Lunch at Learn and future Pavilion events.

Lunch and Learn is open to the community. To find out more visit http://www.jewishpavilion.org or call 407-678-9363.


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