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

Jewish Pavilion gears up to celebrate its 18th anniversary


Jewish Pavilion Gala Committee members (l-r), Melissa Masin, Marlene Adler, Mary Carter Eick of Griswold Home Care, Elise Schilowitz,  gala co-chair  Susan Livingstone, gala co-chair Shirley Schoenberger, Sammy Goldstein, Brenda Fisher Wetmore, Corinne Brail, Pavilion CEO Nancy Ludin, and Friends Board chair Faye Novick.

The Jewish Pavilion Gala committee is in full swing, planning a festive and memorable celebration to mark the organization's 18th-Chai-anniversary.

Since chai means "life" in Hebrew, the slogan for the Oct. 28 gala is "To Life!" It will be a celebration of the spark of Jewish life and culture that the Jewish Pavilion brings to hundreds of seniors living in elder care and independent living facilities in Central Florida.

It all started 18 years ago when Sheryl and Julian Meitin, with aging family members in town, became concerned that Orlando's Jewish seniors were not having their needs fully met by the local facilities. Sheryl's friend Claire Chepenik was active in the Kinneret Council on Aging, and they decided to work together to secure a place where Jewish seniors in need of care could feel at home.

At first, the focus was on finding a place where Jewish residents could live together, and Meitin and Chepenik were able to secure a wing in Westminster Presbyterian Home in Orlando, housing 20 Jewish seniors. There they worked with the staff to ensure kosher-style meals and, with a committed group of volunteers, saw to it that there was appropriate programming and care. The Jewish Pavilion became a reality.

But when the Westminster home wanted to reclaim the wing about two years later, Meitin and Chepenik and a team from Kinneret decided that if Jewish seniors couldn't come to live in The Jewish Pavilion, The Jewish Pavilion would come to them wherever they lived.

"We started with three facilities where we knew there were Jewish residents and they would appreciate us coming to them," recalled Chepenik. Soon, at their temporary office within Julian Meitin's business offices, people began calling them to request visits to their family members in other facilities.

At that point, Meitin said, "We realized that the Jewish people were really spread out all over the community-north, east, south and west. We started sending volunteers to spend time with them, doing services, having musical programs, whatever we could do to make them feel that they weren't forgotten."

And it is this model of reaching Jewish seniors where they live that has been a key factor in the Pavilion's success. Instead of reaching 20 or even 40 or 50 seniors in a single place, the Jewish Pavilion is able to reach ALL of the local Jewish seniors-now numbering several hundred residents in more than 70 facilities throughout Central Florida.

Equally important, Meitin said, are the many people who have found an outlet for volunteering in the Jewish community, including a number who may not have been very involved before. "These were people who care about the elderly," she said, "and The Jewish Pavilion was the vehicle that helped them to put their care into action."

"They have become the backbone of the organization, because just about everything we do is done by volunteers," Chepenik added. "And there's a place for anyone who wants to volunteer."

Seeing the growth and continued thriving of the organization they started 18 years ago is very rewarding for both Meitin and Chepenik. "I am totally awed," said Chepenik. "I am humbled, I am grateful. As a Jewish community in Orlando, we do care about our elders."

Meitin compares it to watching a child grow and come of age. "It's incredible to think that we created something that so many people care about and put years of service into. We've touched so many lives of families as well as the elderly."

At the Jewish Pavilion, volunteers are central to the mission and the seniors it serves are a source of strength and purpose. That's why, over the next few months, the Pavilion will be telling the stories of some of the volunteers who have served since its early days, as well as the stories of some of the seniors whose lives it has enriched for many years.

Mark your calendars for the Oct. 28th Gems and Jeans 2018, to be held at Hilton Orlando North in Altamonte Springs, and stay tuned for more information-and for heartwarming stories. To Life!


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