The New Year: Keeping Alive the Jewish Soul

The High Holidays are the central focus for most Jews this month, as the Yamim Noraim— the Days of Awe—encourage us to look inward and review our previous behavior as well as look outward to appreciate the blessings of family and friends as we gather in celebration.

Orlando’s synagogues will be packed with people as at no other time of the year, all seeking that inspiration to look inward. And Jewish homes all over the area will be packed with family and friends enjoying each other’s company and the delicious special foods we traditionally eat at holiday time. Many other families will travel to other cities to celebrate the holidays with loved ones.

But for many Orlando Jewish seniors, especially those who are ill or who do not have family in town, going to synagogue and sharing traditional holiday foods with family are not possible. And some of these seniors may be living in a facility where they are the only Jew.

In many cities, these people would be, in effect, permanently alienated from the Jewish community. They would be forgotten.

But not in Orlando. The Jewish Pavilion brings Jewish holidays and Jewish culture—and Jewish food—to facility-bound Jewish seniors. When they can’t come to the Jewish community, it brings the Jewish community to them.

In my family, as in many Jewish families, food is a central focus of the holidays, a way to evoke sense memories of holidays past and mark the days as truly special. My mother’s delicious recipe for brisket takes pride of place at our Rosh Hashanah table, along with steaming bowls of soul-satisfying matzoh ball soup and sweetly fragrant apple-honey cake. Our Yom Kippur break-fast is an extravaganza of smoked fish and dairy delights that truly seem like delicacies after a long day of self-denial.

The Jewish Pavilion works with seniors facilities to make sure their Jewish residents can celebrate the holidays with some of these same foods. Some that have been working with and sponsoring the Pavilion for years—such as Brookdale Senior Living facilities, Oakmonte Village, Savannah Court & Cove, Encore at Avalon Park, and Watercrest—coordinate with the Pavilion to set splendid tables with delicious holiday meals and services for all who want to participate. At other facilities, Pavilion program directors and volunteers bring holiday dishes and celebrations to residents to help them maintain their lifelong Jewish identities while living in places where they may be a minority of one.

As the New Year approaches, I encourage everyone to take a moment to remember those who may easily forget the holidays themselves or else observe them alone. Make plans to volunteer to bring the Jewish holiday spirit to facility-bound seniors, or consider making a donation to enable an even more ample and delicious holiday meal.

And may this New Year bring you and your family joy and good fortune. Wishing you a Shana Tova U’Metukah—a good and sweet year!

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