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

Susie Stone brings seniors the joy of the shofar


September 14, 2018

Susie Stone blows the shofar at a Jewish Pavilion High Holidays program.

Each year for the High Holidays, the plaintive, soul-stirring sound of the shofar rings out in synagogues all over the world, and congregants are moved by that ancient tie to their ancestors. For the past several years, Jewish Pavilion volunteer Susie Stone has made sure that Jews in area senior living facilities are not left out.

In many Jewish homes, a shofar is proudly displayed on a shelf or mantle, more an object of Judaica than an instrument used during High Holiday prayer. Maybe once or twice a family member picks it up and tries to get a sound from it. It isn't easy to do, and most people soon give up. Then it goes back to its place, moving only when it's time to dust.

Stone had a shofar like that in her Longwood home, a long and gracefully twisted kudu horn from the Yemenite tradition. Many years ago, she had asked Cantor Allan Robuck of Congregation Ohev Shalom to bring her back a shofar from a trip to Israel and was surprised and pleased by the beauty of the one he chose.

Stone gave her new shofar a place of prominence in her home for all to see. And there it sat for years. Then one day about seven years ago, for reasons she can't quite explain, Stone picked up the shofar and tried to get a sound from it. To her amazement, a sound came out, much like the soulful shofar sounds she knew so well from decades of High Holiday services.

"I could never play an instrument in my whole life other than a little bit of piano," Stone recalled. "I said, 'Wow! I can do this!'" So she got out her High Holidays prayer book and started practicing the various calls: Tekiah! Teruah! Shevarim! And the extended blast of Tekiah Gedolah!

Then she showed her new skill to Mark, her husband of 46 years, and to others. "I was astounded, because Mark tried to do it and he couldn't do it, and I tried giving it to my friends and nobody could do it," said Stone, "And I said, 'This is easy! There's nothing to it!'"

Stone knew that she could use her newfound skill to do some good in the world. She had been volunteering with the Jewish Pavilion since Mark's parents moved to Westchester of Winter Park Assisted Living in 2010. She joined the Friends of the Jewish Pavilion soon after, so she was well aware that the Pavilion hosts High Holidays events in about 30 Orlando-area senior living facilities and is always in need of volunteers who have the rare skill of shofar blowing.

Now, depending on scheduling, Stone blows shofar at four to six Jewish Pavilion High Holiday events every year. Most of the Jewish residents she serves have no other opportunity to observe the holidays and hear the sound of the shofar.

"It brings tears to a lot of people's eyes," Stone said. It is especially moving to see the reactions of seniors who may be ailing or memory-impaired. "It brings them a touch, knowing that the High Holidays are here, and it's something that they remember."

Stone, an Orlando resident since 1984, volunteers year round at Westchester and several other facilities the Pavilion serves. She has an upbeat and warm presence and quickly wins the hearts of the people she meets, and the seniors look forward to her visits.

As a Friends of the Pavilion member Stone has co-chaired several Pavilion galas, and she and Mark have been past gala honorees. The couple is originally from Baltimore, Md., where they met when Susie was on Thanksgiving break as a student at University of Maryland.

Her father-in-law, Sy Stone, passed away several years ago, but her mother-in-law, Sylvia Stone, is still at Westchester and is nearing 92. Stone makes sure that she brings her shofar each year to the Pavilion's High Holiday celebration at Westchester so Sylvia has an opportunity to hear its sounds.

Said Stone, "I can remember my mother-in-law, when she first heard it, I saw tears coming out of her eyes. To me, to do that, and touch them, and bring that happiness to them for the High Holidays, it's pure joy."

Volunteers-with and without shofar-blowing skills-are always needed during the Jewish Pavilion's busy High Holiday season. And your generous donation will help the Pavilion make the holidays special for Jewish seniors in living facilities. For more information, call the Jewish Pavilion at 407-678-9369 or go online at JewishPavilion.org.


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