Splashes of neon color and the sounds of music and conversation filled the day room at the Miriam Apartments at Daughters of Miriam Center, a long-term care senior nursing and rehabilitation facility in Clifton, NJ. The sixth grade classes of Yeshivat Noam, had come to join the senior residents for a morning of programming, including music, art and conversation. Diane Telischak, Miriam Apartments Director and activity planner for the apartment tenants, noted that the children’s energy – not to mention the bright colors of the children’s clothes and especially their sneakers! — created “a brilliance and excitement, which transfers to the tenants.”
The students were participating as part of a ongoing program, funded by a grant from the Legacy Heritage Foundation known as the “Better Together Grant”. Coordinated by Yeshivat Noam teacher/ teamleader, Aliza Chanales and Yeshivat Noam Middle School psychologist, Rabbi Dr. Alex Mondrow, the program is designed to bring students and seniors together several time over the course of the year, generally for activities centered around the celebration of the Jewish holidays, in order to allow the students and seniors to develop relationships, and to sensitize students to the needs of the senior population.
David Goldkorn, an apartment tenant, said he looks forward to participating in programs involving children. Mr. Goldkorn shared stories of his youth, growing up in Poland during World War II, at a time when Jews were unable to be openly Jewish and to stand up for themselves. Mr. Goldkorn told of an instance in which he and his brothers were beaten by their non-Jewish counterparts. Despite being well able to identify the perpetrators, his parents forbade him from confronting them or fighting back, admonishing them instead to keep a low profile. Mr. Goldkorn’s message to the Jewish children was one of Jewish unity and pride: “By being united, we [the Jews] will be strong. Stay proud of your Jewish heritage.”
Milton Yudowitz, an 89 year old survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp agreed: “I love the children. The children know what it means to be Jewish.”
Sixth graders agreed that the experience was an enriching one and gave them a greater appreciation for all they have: “Life was not so easy back then. We think that it’s history but people actually lived through it,” said Sixth Grader, Eli Gilad. Most of all, students felt good that they were able to brighten the days of the seniors, as Sixth Grader, Gavriel Buchwald acknowledged: “The smiles on the faces of the people made it all worth it.”
By Esta Luber