L'Dor V'Dor -- CJE Builds Bridges Across Generations

by Nicole Bruce

CJE is dedicated to creating a community-oriented culture by connecting our wisest and newest generations through intergenerational programs that help foster a sense of personal and communal purpose.  From preschool to high school, CJE has been part of the larger Jewish learning environment for younger generations. Kids visit residents at CJE’s
independent housing buildings, Lieberman Center for Health and Rehabilitation, and Weinberg Community for Senior Living for a variety of activities.

Located less than a mile away from Weinberg Community, the neighboring Chicagoland Jewish High School (CJHS) has developed a truly unique partnership with CJE since 2007. There is a strong  commitment to provide opportunities that embrace  Jewish values and traditions through the “In Step Together: CJE and CJHS” partnership, which recently received a 2015 Jewish Programming Award from the  Association of Jewish Aging Services.

Both CJE and CJHS have benefited from this innovative, multi-dimensional program that has  enhanced the spiritual well-being of older adults. On a  practical level, CJE provides all kosher dining services  to the high school as well as transportation to and from the local train station for commuting students. The greatest reward, however, comes from the formal and informal intergenerational programmatic relationship that has evolved between the students and residents of Weinberg’s Gidwitz Place for Assisted Living and Friend Center for Memory Care.

Embodying CJE’s tradition of L’Dor V’Dor, CJHS students come as volunteers and participate in life  enrichment programming several times throughout  the year. Interacting with residents gives the students  a chance to learn more about the older generation’s life experiences, especially their Jewish life stories.  The residents are energized and encouraged by the students’ love of Judaism and feel they are making a lasting contribution to how the students will live  “Jewishly,” with meaning and purpose. In turn, the students develop an appreciation and special bond with an older generation that has so much wisdom to share.

Additionally, vibrant artwork contributed by CJHS students for Weinberg Community’s yearly open house is now regularly showcased in the Gidwitz Place “art corridor,” which reminds residents of their ongoing and deep connection with the students.

While older students can appreciate the sentiment of connecting with an older, wiser generation on a deeper level, younger children also enjoy their time with Weinberg residents. First grade students from Solomon Schechter Day School of Metropolitan Chicago have visited to sing uplifting, traditional Jewish songs and spend time reading with the residents.

Other CJE locations also place high value on intergenerational programming. At Robineau Residence in Skokie, children from Bayit Afterschool, a Jewish educational program in Evanston, have joined residents to decorate pots and plant seeds for the greenhouse and residents’ rooms while learning about the holiday Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish Arbor Day.

At Lieberman Center for Health and Rehabilitation, teenagers from various schools also volunteer for specialoccasions, mostrecently at a Victory Day celebration honoring World War II veterans and Holocaust survivors.The students participated inthe musical performances, and helped recognize Lieberman residents and others in the Russian-speaking community.

According to a news release from the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie, 62 percent of World War II survivors in the Chicago area were born in the former Soviet Union.  Involvement of younger generations at Lieberman events is especially poignant as the number of surviving veterans and Holocaust survivors has dwindled in the last decade. It is a chance to look back at history through the perspectives of those who have lived through it.

Older adults also devote their own time in the community to enlighten younger generations. Accompanied by personal artifacts and photographs, Holocaust survivors from CJE’s Holocaust Community Services program shared their stories with eighth  grade students at Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School (BZAEDS) as part of an educational program. During their initial visit to the school, survivors each spoke with students in small breakout groups.

The students recounted what they’ve learned from  the older survivors through photo essays at a special school exhibition, “The Other: Past, Present and Future,” which opened on May 26. Facilitated by the BZAEDS artist in residence, Alan Teller, a professional photographer and cultural anthropologist, the moving exhibition explored essential questions, including why individuals, communities and nations create “the other” and exclude them from their moral universe of obligation.

Through a multitude of programs exemplifying themeaning of L’Dor V’Dor, CJE is delighted to be a destination of choice for younger generations from all over the community who are committed to volunteering their time and talent in such profound ways.

These are just a few of the ways in which younger volunteers have made a positive impact on our programs. Interested in volunteering at CJE SeniorLife as an individual or with a school program? Call 847.929.3040 or email volunteers@cje.net (link sends e-mail) to find out how you can get involved at CJE.