2018-06-20 / Voice at the Shore

Caregiving and ageless Judaism to be addressed by Shirat Hayam Scholar, July 13-14

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER Voice shore editor

RABBI DAYLE FRIEDMAN RABBI DAYLE FRIEDMAN “My dream is to empower all of us to find—and give—blessing as we grow older. I’ve been pursuing this dream for the past 30 years.”

So says Rabbi Dayle Friedman, author of three books of Jewish wisdom on aging and founder of The Center for Aging and Judaism of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Her website, Growingolder.net, is a wealth of information on “Wisdom + Spirit Beyond Midlife.”

“Addressing aging in the Jewish community has been my calling since I was a teen,” said Friedman, who has been described as “a pioneer forging a fresh vision of the second half of life.”

Rabbi Friedman will be the annual Charlotte M. Kulp Scholar-in Residence at Shirat Hayam in Ventnor July 13-14. On Friday, immediately following the 6 p.m. Kabbalat Shabbat service, she will talk about creating a Jewish community for all ages.

“There are such riches in the interaction between older and younger people!” stressed Friedman.

On Saturday morning, she will speak at the end of services on caring for the caregiver. A $25 donation is requested to cover the cost of Saturday’s kiddush luncheon.

Although Jewish prayer invokes the importance of “l’dor v’dor” (from generation to generation), “the reality of American Jewish life is that we live our lives age-separated,” said Friedman. Programs are offered for each age group—seniors, teens, children, young families.

Yet the Torah says we need the generations to mix, she stressed. When Pharaoh asks Moses who will be leaving Egypt, Moses tells him: “’With our young and old we will go.’ I think that’s a guiding vision we are not living up to,” said Friedman.

“I’m trying to change the mindset of how we think about community. A lot of synagogues spend their time thinking: Where are the young families? They take for granted the rest of the population,” she explained.

Friedman believes synagogues and Jewish communities need to take a different approach, by instead asking: “How do we be conscious of who is here and connect more deeply with who is here?”

Caregiving and the need for caregivers to get the spiritual sustenance they need is another important topic Friedman will address at Shirat Hayam.

Like the children of Israel who wandered the dessert for 40 years after leaving Egypt, caregivers too may find themselves on a long journey that is sometimes harsh. Yet just as our people received sustenance and occasionally came upon an oasis in the dessert, caregivers too need sustenance and refreshment in their journey, said Friedman.

“Acknowledging how hard it can be, and that it can also be beautiful, is important,” said the rabbi, who added that “having a space to acknowledge feelings that are not positive—having permission to do so—is important.”

Friedman will talk about the “spiritual resources” caregivers can draw upon to sustain and restore themselves. For example, seeking “a moment of Shabbat” during one’s day, as well as meditation, can be helpful tools for spiritual restoration.

Friedman’s most recent book is “Jewish Wisdom for Growing Older: Finding Your Grit and Grace Beyond Midlife.” As described on Amazon.com, the book “mines ancient, Jewish wisdom for values, tools and precedents to frame new callings and beginnings, shifting family roles, and experiences of illness and death.”

“Each chapter addresses a different challenge, has some relevant text from Jewish tradition, and offers an experiential practice to try,” Friedman explained.

For more information about Rabbi Friedman or her book, go to GrowingOlder.net. For more information about the 16th Annual Kulp Scholar-in- Residence Weekend at Shirat Hayam, or to RSVP, call the synagogue at 609-822-7116, extension 101. 

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