Teens and seniors bond through Better Together at Beth Sholom Village

July 16, 2018

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When Alisa Kosovsky got to Beth Sholom Village, she immediately walked over to sit with Lillian Kozak.

The two are decades apart in age, but as close as ever.

One is on the precipice of starting her life independent of her family—in college. The other is looking back at all she’s accomplished and cherished over her lifetime.

The two were connected through Better Together, a program that brings teens from Ohef Sholom Temple, Temple Israel, and Temple Beth El into the lives of seniors at Beth Sholom Village.

The cohort gets together once each month for lunch and learning. The lessons span from how to use social media to how to chase career dreams. What most participants have in common is their Jewish heritage and culture.

On June 10, Kosovsky, Kozak, and the other teens and seniors and their families gathered for an end-of-the-year banquet to celebrate all they accomplished over the past year. They noshed on lunch and cake, watched a video that compiled the teens’ interviews with their senior friends, and talked about how they planned to spend their summers.

Kosovsky, 18, has partnered with Kozak for both years of the program. The two share a bond that even distance won’t break. Although Kosovsky is going to Virginia Commonwealth University in the fall and Kozak will likely have a new partner when the program resumes, there’s no doubt the two will remain close.

Kosovsky described their bond in an essay she wrote that won her not only the local essay contest (judged by area judges), but also third place in a national contest with dozens of other Better Together teens from around the country.

“As a senior in high school embarking on the next chapter, I find myself constantly searching for some ultimate truth, maybe some half hearted cliché to help guide me through life. Maybe I would find the secret to leading the life that we all envision for ourselves as children. As it turns out, the key was hiding in plain sight. It’s simple. I aspire to be like Lillian, no matter my age. I aspire to approach my life with the same fervor and excitement, the same quirkiness and mischief. Lillian has shown me the value of hard work and perseverance, the importance of a good laugh with friends.”

“Better Together has widened my perspective on the world and given me the opportunity to collaborate with someone I now call a friend,” says Lizzy Goldstein, a rising eighth grader. “It doesn’t even feel like community service, but rather sitting down for lunch, getting to know someone. Better Together should be an internationally known program, I love it.”

Goldstein has already promised to return next year. Her partner was senior Joe Harowitz, who easily makes friends with the teens.

The teens weren’t alone in being impacted by their experiences—their families, were, too.

Alyson Morrissey, whose daughter Leia participated, says it was a valuable experience.

“Not only is she filling a mitzvah by providing company to the residents of Beth Sholom Village, she is engaging in meaningful conversations,” Morrissey says. “These conversations allow her to learn about the world around her in a perspective she is not as used to. Through her visits she has heard first hand accounts of how the world has changed over the last several decades, which has opened her heart and mind to seeing things from different points of view.”

The program is expected to continue for a third year in the fall. It will no longer be funded by a national Jewish grantor, but instead through local support. Teens will again return to BSV on Sundays.

“Better Together has brought enrichment to the lives of our seniors through an intergenerational approach,” says David Abraham, chief executive officer of Beth Sholom Village.

“The program has created bonds between the students and seniors that otherwise may not have happened. The knowledge shared from each of the Better Together members young and old will have a lasting impact on everyone involved.”

For information on participating or supporting Better Together, contact Leslie Shroyer at lmshroyer@cox.net.

- Leslie Shroyer and Robyn Weiner

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