The fifth commandment is clear. “Honor your father and mother,” as is the reason, according to the Torah (Exodus, Chapter 20). “So that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your G-d gives you.”
If that’s true, then we all gained a few more years on this earth the week of February 17–24, thanks to the collective commemoration of the commandment and the 38-year-old Jewish skilled care nursing facility affectionately known as The Home.
In every synagogue in the region, and on both sides of the harbor, synagogues, education directors, and everyday congregants made moms and dads and their care the focus of programming, coinciding with the annual reading of the Parsha Yitro.
As the marketing consultant for the Berger-Goldrich Home at Beth Sholom Village, which will soon commence a $5-million refurbishment, I was eager to visit as many shuls as possible. Over two weekends, I hit four.
On Friday evening February 17, Rabbi Severine Sokol invited me to Temple Sinai in Newport News to apprise them of our Honor (Kahbaid) Campaign and lead a lively discussion on being a grandparent, which was valuable since I became one for the third time five days earlier. In her remarks, the rabbi said that “according to the Talmud, we have a responsibility to safeguard our parents’ physical well being” and added that “the illustrious Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav opined that the prosperity of a country is in accordance with its treatment of the elderly.”
On Saturday morning February 18, I was at Temple Israel in Norfolk where Rabbi Michael Panitz asked member Marcia Brodie, Beth Sholom Village’s marketing director, to describe the trying years she experienced caring for her aging parents, Mindy and Ralph Futterman (both former presidents of Beth Sholom), first in their homes, and then at Beth Sholom. “Little did I know how much caring was involved and how difficult it would be. Thanks to Beth Sholom, though, I was able to sleep at night and spend more time with my daughter, while still honoring my mother and father.”
The following Friday, I attended a family Shabbat at KBH in Virginia Beach, where Alene Kaufman coordinated a display of pictures of congregants’ parents. “When Beth Sholom was built, it was for our parents and grandparents,” said Judy Saperstein, one of the submitters. “We need to be sure that it will be there for us when it’s our turn.”
That same night, I drove to Ghent to hear Ohef Sholom Temple’s director of Family Learning, Chris Kraus, describe “Better Together,” an intergenerational partnership between a group of residents at Beth Sholom Village and a dozen teens from his synagogue. “They meet once a month for lunch to learn together, schmooze, play games, and tell stories.”
One of the teens, Kari Levi, then spoke movingly about the many conversations she had with Marjorie Simon, a resident of the Terrace Assisted Living facility, who passed away in January, but left her young friend with a newly found respect for the elderly.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Israel Zoberman sermonized at Beth Chaverim in Virginia Beach that the “Fifth Commandment seals the first five, which according to Jewish tradition, are enshrined on the first tablet dealing in the relationship between God and humans. Consequently, honoring one’s parents affects no less than our relationship with God the Creator who, the rabbis teach us, partners with parents in creating children.”
At Congregation Beth El in Norfolk on February 18, Rabbi Jeffrey Arnowitz spoke about the lessons we learn from our elders and the impressive services Beth Sholom Village provides. He even invited Beth Sholom Village CEO David Abraham to the bimah for an aliyah. At Temple Emmanuel in Virginia Beach, Steve Suskin, BSV director of Philanthropy, talked about the Honor Campaign, and Rabbi Marc Kraus devoted his sermon to the same subject, stating that “one day we all hope to receive from others the same quality of care and dignity that our loved ones deserve today.”
At Adath Jeshrun Synagogue in Newport News that same morning, Rabbi Gershon Litt noted that Moses’ energy came from his ancestors and tied that to our own experience. “We remember how our grandparents made latkes, what they said at the seder, how they blessed us, what they wished for us, and how they dreamed of a Jewish future in their family. Now it is up to us to use that energy, like Moshe did, to take action. Having a place to bring our Jewish elderly is something that we should not take for granted.”
And finally, B’Nai Israel Congregation in Norfolk hosted a special “Chai Kiddush” after Shabbat services that featured an elaborate printed program with memorial dedications by congregants to their parents and several photos from interactions Toras Chaim students had with Beth Sholom residents during their own “Better Together” initiative. “The joining of generations is truly a time-honored tradition,” organizers wrote in the program. ”We here in Tidewater are truly blessed with the Beth Sholom Home where our parents (or grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.) are cared for in the most professional manner possible.”
Together with an interactive conversation I conducted on February 5 with more than 100 members of Brith Sholom, which meets monthly at the Berger-Goldrich Home, it was a full month of celebrating our connections to our mothers and fathers and telling our story.
“It was a great idea for Beth Sholom Village to take its mission of caring for our older generation out into the community through Kahbaid Shabbat,” says Rabbi Arnowitz. “It was an excellent opportunity for us to honor our own seniors and remind everyone of the essential role Beth Sholom plays in our greater Jewish community.” For more information on the Honor or Kahbaid Campaign to refurbish the Berger- Goldrich Home at Beth Sholom Village, call Steve Suskin at 757-420-2512.
- Joel Rubin