Twelve-year-old Rachel Reale has been visiting with residents of the Abramson Center for Jewish Life since she was a very little girl. Her visits began with her pre-school class at Temple Sinai and are continuing today, as part of her community service project for her upcoming bat mitzvah.
Even though her schedule is packed with school work, music, dance and Hebrew lessons, Rachel doesn’t find it hard to make time for friendly visits at the Center. “I like visiting the residents in their rooms, seeing pictures of their children and grandchildren, and hearing their stories from when they were young,” she says.
Rachel also enjoys celebrating Jewish holidays with residents. “I like when they clap after we sing songs and that they know the same prayers that I do,” she says. “It’s nice to connect that way.”
Rachel’s visits and those of hundreds of other area students each year are made possible through the Center’s Project SHEMA (Sharing and Enriching through Multigenerational Activities). “Project SHEMA gives students and seniors the opportunity to create special bonds and learn from each other through shared activities,” says Volunteer Director Mona Gold, who coordinates the program. Activities run the gamut from games and arts and crafts, to attending special programs and holiday celebrations. Students participating in the program can earn community service hours for bar and bat mitzvah projects, honor society, college applications, and senior projects.
Resident Myra Bernstein makes a point to attend as many Project SHEMA activities as she can. “I like being around children because they remind me of my youth,” she exclaims. “I love it when they ask me questions and I can answer them.” Jodi Reale is happy that Rachel and her older daughter Marissa, 16, both chose to visit with seniors at the Abramson Center for their bat mitzvah projects. “I think their experiences demonstrate the lifelong commitment of the Jewish people, and enforce the lesson that despite your age or health challenges, our commitment to Jewish customs and traditions is important.”
*Reprinted with permission from the Chai Lights newsletter of the Madlyn and Leonard Abramson Center for Jewish Life
You can help support multigenerational programs at the Abramson Center by calling the Development Office at 215-371-1811. For information on volunteering through Project SHEMA, please call Mona Gold at 215-371-1816.