2015-02-18 / Local News

Beth Tikvah students & Lions Gate seniors learn from each other

By SALLY FRIEDMAN For the Voice


Students from Cong. Beth Tikvah in Marlton recently visited Lions Gate for an intergenerational event. Sharing the experience were (from left), Beth Tikvah parent Karen Schwartz, student Rory Newman, Beth Tikvah Rabbinic Intern Michael Perice, and Lions Gate resident Dr. Eugene Bass. Students from Cong. Beth Tikvah in Marlton recently visited Lions Gate for an intergenerational event. Sharing the experience were (from left), Beth Tikvah parent Karen Schwartz, student Rory Newman, Beth Tikvah Rabbinic Intern Michael Perice, and Lions Gate resident Dr. Eugene Bass. There was no need to ask exactly where at Lions Gate the intergenerational event was happening on a recent winter Sunday. The buzz and laughter pointed the way to a recreation area at Lions Gate, where several dozen seniors—and juniors— were happily interacting.

The concept of this real live version of L’dor V’dor (from generation to generation) came from Michael Perice, rabbinic intern and educational director at Cong. Beth Tikvah in Marlton, and a rabbinical student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Perice, a Cherry Hill native, felt it was natural—and important—to try to bring the generations together for the mutual benefit of each group.

“‘From generation to generation’ is a very basic and wise Jewish concept, and sometimes, we just need to help along the circumstances to make it happen,” said Perice, whose grandmother lives at Lions Gate, making the choice of place quite obvious.

“I really think it’s important for kids to learn about Judaism and Jewish life from older generations, and Lions Gate has such amazing residents to transmit that background,” Perice said.

As the youngsters met with the residents, the joy of the experience was evident on the faces of both generations.

Adrian Quintero, 8, of Cherry Hill loved learning about how people used to travel and what adventures they had.

Little Shirla Pearl was fascinated by all she heard from her morning’s senior friends. “Some girls grew up at a time when girls didn’t even have bat mitzvahs!” she reported with amazement.

And that was precisely the point. The exposure between the young and old has narrowed, the social scientists tell us, as the young increasingly plug into electronic, not human, connections.

For those participants in the recent Beth Tikvah-originated intergenerational event, there were questions that encouraged that person-to-person connection.

“What is your favorite Jewish holiday and why?’ the youngsters were encouraged to ask. “Have you ever been to Israel? What do you remember about the trip?” And this very apt one, given the L’dor V’dor theme: “What did your grandparents pass on to you? How did family help to determine your path in life?”

The seniors were invited to pass down advice to the children, to reflect on what they wish they had known early in their lives, and to share how important Judaism has been in their lives, among other reflections.

The student rabbi noted that a child may only interact with a senior relative, and that for some, the visit to Lions Gate may have marked the first time they could come to have an exchange with a senior non-relative.

“So often,” Perice said, “the elderly are forgotten about, but these are truly amazing people with amazing stories and a great wealth of knowledge and experience. There wasn’t some deep philosophical agenda,” he reflected after the event. “I simply wanted the two groups to engage with one another, and to see how much has changed in the world and how much has not, through a Jewish lens.”

For Lions Gate residents, that lens was welcome,

Barbara Myers found the exchange “extremely enjoyable. It gave me such pleasure to talk to young ones.”

Shirley Norman, 87 years young and Perice’s grandmother, is enormously proud of her grandson, “Rabbi Michael,” as he is affectionately known at Beth Tikvah.

“I’m not surprised that he wants to become a rabbi because being Jewish was always so important in our family. And from watching him today, I know he’ll be a good one,” said a very proud bubbie.

Ethel J. David, a well known Jewish communal activist and now a resident of Lions Gate, loved the experience with the younger generation. At 99, she is still proudly Jewish, and filling her time with writing, a lifelong passion.

“When you talk to the very young, you can teach them about giving back, and about living a full and meaningful Jewish life,” said David, who had an attentive audience of youngsters as she explained that she has recently written a book of poetry in which the poems can be read top to bottom—and bottom to top.

“Children are little sponges who absorb what you say. We can learn from their wide-open minds and imaginations, and they can learn from our experiences. So it’s a wonderful connection.”

And that was the prevailing feeling on both sides of the age spectrum.

As the children prepared to leave, one young lad said to another, “I really didn’t know what this would be like, but it turned out to be really fun. I learned stuff, like about Israel, and I definitely want to go there.”

His buddy nodded. “And soon!” the other child said. “Really soon—because we’re Jewish and it’s an important place for us.”

That had to be music to the ears of Perice. .

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