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

By Pam Ruben 

Pavilion's From Generation to Generation program


Bar mitzvah student Josh Zeffren with Intergenerational Program Director Jane Edelstein.

Can you imagine a world without children? Unfortunately, many seniors housed in eldercare can go months without a visitor of any age. Thanks to a recent grant from the Cherna Moskowitz Foundation, the Jewish Pavilion has created a pilot, intergenerational program for elders housed in long-term-care, appropriately titled From Generation to Generation. This program will bond the generations through a series of regular visits. Newly hired Intergenerational Program Director Jane Edelstein is helping grow this new program in partnership with local synagogues, youth groups, Bar and Bat Mitzvah students, families (affiliated or not), as well as individuals, with the goal of building a deeper youth-senior connection.

Edelstein noted, "As society continues to change rapidly, one of the realities is that young people have grown up with their faces in front of a screen (computer, iPad, etc.), and many are actually more comfortable this way. As a result, many young people don't have basic social skills that help ease them through the world. This is especially distressing in the Jewish community where our core values are passed from one generation to the next (L'Dor V'Dor) through shared traditions, memories, and love."

Edelstein is joining a nationwide trend of bonding the generations by bringing young people together with seniors.

"In the past, youth were placed with seniors primarily for the benefit of the older generation. Now, it goes both ways," said Edelstein. "The seniors need young people to keep them vibrant, active and excited, and young people need older people just as much. Young people need seniors to explain what the world was like when they were young, as well as how to look at the world with a perspective that comes from a different time."

"From Generation to Generation will foster intergenerational relationships throughout the 2016-2017 school year through regular visits between the two groups for their mutual benefit," explained Jewish Pavilion Executive Director Nancy Ludin. "Jane has excellent leadership and people skills, and her devotion to Jewish causes makes her the right person to coordinate and develop this new program."

"We are thankful for the support from the Cherna Moskowitz Foundation, and are excited about partnering with them because of their understanding of the importance of providing children with the skills to strengthen connections with family and community," Ludin stated. "Additionally, our elder-care population will equally benefit from the attention and affection of the visiting youth, who will grow to become more compassionate."

The intergenerational program officially launched on July 18, when Edelstein met with her first prospective student, 12-year-old bar mitzvah student Josh Zeffren. The seventh grader from Congregation Ohev Shalom reached out to the Pavilion, enquiring about the possibility of interviewing a senior and sharing his or her life history for his upcoming bar mitzvah project. Zeffren had just returned from St. Louis, where he had spent time with his own grandparents. That experience motivated him to spend time with local seniors.

Edelstein recently completed a project with college students from the University of Miami on the successful building blocks to young adulthood. Once again, Edelstein pulled out her 'mentor hat,' in her first meeting with Zeffren. Edelstein asked him about questions he had asked his own grandparents, and together, the pair came up with an inventory of questions to ask the older generation. Zeffren shared his great interest in history, and expressed excitement about learning about the past from people who lived through periods of history that he had only seen through video and read in textbooks. Edelstein shared that many seniors have no local family, and would very much appreciate the opportunity to share their life with an eager listener.

The former general manager of the Cleveland Jewish News, Edelstein is looking forward to using her communication skills to reach out to local groups that would like to work with seniors. "Our seniors benefit from every kind of visitor," noted Edelstein, who has served on the Pavilion's Friends Board for the past two years. "But our intergenerational volunteers relate to our seniors in a special way."

Synagogues, youth groups, bar and bat mitzvah students, families (affiliated or not), and individuals who would like to spend time with seniors can email Edelstein at janejewishpavilion@gmail.com or reach her at the Jewish Pavilion offices at 407-678-9363.


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