It's Always Better Together

Gidwitz Residents and Solomon Schechter Sixth Graders Bond Through Two-Year “Better Together” Intergenerational Partnership.

By Nicole Bruce

Over the past year, sixth graders from Sager Solomon Schechter Day School in Northbrook have been visiting with Gidwitz Place for Assisted Living residents at Weinberg Community for Senior Living as part of a special intergenerational partnership. Made possible with support from a generous donor, the two-year “Better Together” program has inspired the students to visit CJE’s assisted living campus on a regular basis. Connecting with the older adults on so many different levels has positively changed the students’ perspectives on aging and led to some invaluable life lessons—the true meaning behind l’dor v’dor.

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Schechter participates in the “Better Together” program along with 90 other day schools, Jewish teen programs and religious schools throughout the nation. During the past academic year, Schechter coordinated ten visits between students and Gidwitz residents. Together, the residents and students wrote poetry guided by a poet-in-residence, cooked and practiced yoga. Students even interviewed residents about their lives, helped them navigate the latest technology and performed pieces from their school musical.

Compositions exploring the students’ intergenerational relationships were entered into both a school-wide and national contest, “Better Together Better 2 Write.” Schechter student Rachael Zacks was named the national middle school winner for her essay.

“This experience has been so meaningful. It has taught me that it doesn’t matter how old you are, as long as it is a true friendship,” wrote Rachael Zacks. Rachael received a generous scholarship to be used at a Jewish summer camp, and Schechter received a $25,000 contribution to its scholarship fund in her honor.

At the end of the academic year, the program culminated with a fabulous brunch at Gidwitz Place, where the sixth graders shared reflections of Gidwitz visits with family members, Schechter faculty and Gidwitz staff. According to Schechter student Leo B., “I have learned that just because you may be a little bit older doesn’t mean that you have to give up, or stop doing what you love. You can keep going, and that is a very powerful
message.”

Another student, Gabriella D., said, “It opened my mind about how you can do things for others and learn about them. It really made me think, and I came up with this: if friendship had an age, it would be uncountable.”

Schechter students are ready to return to Gidwitz Place in the fall for another exciting year. A full documentary on this intergenerational and meaningful partnership—with footage of residents and students from the program’s first year—will soon be released.

Currently, a video teaser can be seen on Solomon Schechter’s YouTube channel.