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

Yiddishe maven, Joan Pohl, honored at Jewish Pavilion Volunteer Luncheon


Joan Pohl

The Jewish Pavilion will host its Annual Volunteer Luncheon, JP Connections, at the Altamonte Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 10, at the Altamonte Hilton at 11 a.m. The luncheon will honor volunteers Joan Pohl and Penny D' Agostino, as well as all Pavilion volunteers and members.

"Joan Pohl is an extraordinary teacher of Yiddish, and for the past five years she has enriched and reconnected members of the elder-care community with a heritage that could have easily been forgotten. Thanks to Joan, our seniors and her class participants from all backgrounds have been able to take a walk down memory lane, while reviving and sharing their rich heritage," stated Jewish Pavilion Executive Director Nancy Ludin. "Please join us we honor Yiddishe maven Joan Pohl and songstress Penny D'Agostino, two women who have generously shared their talents with our seniors. Don't miss our Volunteer and Member Appreciation Luncheon on Thursday, Dec. 10 at the Altamonte Hilton."

On the third Thursday of each month, volunteer Yiddish instructor Joan Pohl can be found surrounded by a crowd of seniors at Brookdale Island Lake in Longwood, eager to practice the Yiddish language during the one-hour conversational Yiddish class. Pohl's class brings a taste of the Yiddish culture and language to the 15-20 students who attend the monthly offering. The Winter Park resident and retired speech pathologist welcomes students of all faiths and backgrounds. While the majority of students hail from Brookdale Senior Living, others commute from surrounding areas, even as far away as The Villages, for the one-of-a-kind chance to communicate in a forgotten tongue. Recently, Pohl added an additional Yiddish course to her roster, which she teaches at Congregation Ohev Shalom.

Like most Jewish mothers, Pohl takes great pleasure in feeding her guests, and brings a taste of from the past to share with her students. She stated, "I always like to bring a nosh from 80-year-old mother, who still lives in South Florida. When I bring a piece of her rugelach, it's like I am bringing a part of her along with me. These tastes from the past evokes memories, and bring a richness to our gatherings."

Born in Israel, Pohl grew up in New York and Miami, and was the child of two Holocaust survivors, Aaron and Monya Kornicki, from Poland and Germany. Her paternal grandmother, Rachel Kornicki, spoke Yiddish in the home while her parents were away at work. Pohl has fond memories of her Yiddish roots, and is happy to have a skill that she can she share with the senior community.

Pohl noted, "Teaching Yiddish is as rewarding for myself as it for the seniors. Though I am probably 20 to 25 years younger than these seniors, their stories and childhoods are identical to mine. We are all the children of refugees, raised with grandparents and the Yiddish language in our homes. Spending time with Pavilion seniors has brought back feelings from my childhood and helped making me appreciate my heritage, and so much more."

"Our shared experience is reviving 'Yiddishkeit, the traditions of love, the generations of generations caring for one another that has been lost in the modern world," added Pohl. "During class, we take a trip down memory lane, and it is heartwarming to see the elderly residents become young again. I can see their joyous smiles as participants in their 80s and 90s suddenly feel like teens, as they revisit a happy time when they were part of a community and felt respected. Often these seniors feel invisible, but when we're together, each one of us is important."

"Yiddish is an animated language, full of physicality and gestures," remarked Pohl. "An energy runs through the class when we practice Yiddish. Seniors in their 80s and 90s become enlivened and seem to awaken as we converse in the language of our youth." Jewish Pavilion Program Director Emily Newman remarked, "It's wonderful to see our seniors become so animated during class discussions. Yiddish class brings them such obvious joy and connects their past with where they are today. Joan's class gives our seniors a forum to share their ideas and to be part of a vibrant community of learners."

Pohl is a hands-on educator and uses a contemporary approach to impart this age-old language, differentiating her lessons to reach the visual, tactile, and audial learner. Pohl's background in speech pathology, with a specialty in strokes and head traumas, helps her meet the needs of her students. She noted, "because of my background, I know when to push a senior to help pull out a thought, and I also know when to stop and to give a senior a moment to put their own thoughts together."

Pohl enjoys finding examples that Yiddish is thriving and that the past is being rekindled. She often brings examples of Yiddish words and phrases that appear in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or other mainstream media. This past summer she went to the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts, where Yiddish tomes are preserved, digitized, and stored. Pohl shared that she had met Yiddish Center founder Aaron Lasky many years ago. She stated, "It is amazing to see his dreams come true, and to see Yiddish books being preserved and sent all over the world. It is wonderful to see we are not forgetting this language that is so meaningful."

Outside of Yiddish class, Pohl loves to travel with her husband of 41 years, Frank, and to spend time with her adult daughters, Rachel and Allie, who reside in California. Last month the family came together to celebrate Allie's wedding to husband Mehran. Frank and Joan will combine their love for family and travel this holiday season when they spend time on the West Coast with their two daughters and their new son-in-law.

Pohl concluded, "I am so grateful to the Pavilion for this opportunity to share my love for Yiddish and to give back to my roots. I love this language and culture of inclusion, where everyone is welcome, and where we 'come back to the past to create the future.' I invite community members of all ages and all backgrounds to join us for A Taste of Yiddish on the third Thursday of each month. Knowledge of Yiddish is not required, just bring a sense of humor and a taste for learning."

Join Pohl and the Jewish Pavilion for A Taste of Yiddish on Dec. 17 at Brookdale Island Lake at 10:30 a.m. For more information about the Jewish Pavilion Contact http://www.jewishpavilion.org or call 407-678-9363 to find out more.

It is the mission of the Jewish Pavilion to enhance the lives of our elders and their families by strengthening their connection to the community. You can personally make a difference. Become a fan www.facebook.com/jewishpavilion

The Annual Volunteer Luncheon, JP Connections, is open to the community, and includes a gourmet lunch, holiday bazaar, and live music. Contact http://www.jewishpavilion.org or call 407-678-9363 to register, make a donation, or to find out more.


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