Temple Beth Tikvah Awarded Grant to Bring Generations Together
Temple Beth Tikvah (TBT) in Madison announces a new year-long project called 2 Way L’Dor V’Dor. This project was made possible through a Community Grant for the Jewish Elderly from the Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven.
The title 2 Way L’Dor V’Dor was inspired by 12th grader Sophia Fedus, daughter of project director Donna Fedus.
Sophia Fedus said, “You know the part in bar and bat mitzvahs where the Torah is passed down from grandparents to parents to children? What if we could also pass things like an iPad back up through the generations?”
The project will increase opportunities for social connection and intergenerational understanding by inviting older congregants to participate with religious school students. Additionally, brief friendly visits will be made to some two dozen older congregants and unaffiliated older adults at senior living communities four times during the year along with deliveries of apples and honey for Rosh Hashana, oil for Chanukah, matzah for Passover, and challah for a Shabbat.
“While people often have increased needs as they age, they also have so much to give,” said Rabbi Stacy Offner. “We want the older adults who participate in this program to be seen as valued, contributing individuals who are included members of our Jewish community, not as a separate, needy population. The project is deliberately designed for all participants to both give and receive.”
COVID-19 highlighted the fact that when community members are physically separated, they need to have strong relationships in place and other ways to connect, although the issue goes beyond the current crisis. Increasing opportunities for intergenerational connection will help reduce social isolation and loneliness among older adults while strengthening the local safety net and creating enrichment opportunities for people of all ages.
TBT Board President Jeff Babbin said, “At a time when people live longer than ever and families live more spread out than ever, faith communities like TBT can play an important role to combat social isolation and loneliness, strengthen social support systems, and build communities that intentionally include all generations.”
The 2 Way L’Dor V’Dor project team will work with clergy and religious school teachers to infuse grade-appropriate intergenerational lesson plans to complement the current curriculum. Older adults will be invited in to participate in religious school classes, perhaps reading or singing, sharing heritage recipes or family traditions, teaching a few Yiddish phrases, or serving as examples of living history. Older grades or those seeking mitzvah projects will be encouraged to offer technology assistance to older adults wishing to improve their skills. Some funding is allocated to purchase technology. All congregants will be invited to make the friendly visits and deliveries.
The project is designed to involve many parts of Temple Beth Tikvah’s infrastructure, in order to impact a wide swath of the congregation and to boost sustainability. In addition to clergy and older congregants, TBT’s religious school teachers, lay leaders, participants from the Board of Directors, Torah Study, Kol Ami (sisterhood), the Men’s Group and Helping Hands will all be invited to participate.
“As a gerontologist, I’m thrilled to help build greater understanding between generations,” said Donna Fedus. “Creating semi-structured opportunities for younger people to get to know older adults outside of their families can reduce stigma about aging. It can also prepare students for today’s world where longevity trends will profoundly impact how they live and work for the rest of their lives.”
Fedus continued, “There are so many ways to build cross-generational understanding through small moments that add up to big lifelong impact for all involved.”
The project officially kicked off June 1. To share ideas or join the effort, email Donna Fedus at firstname.lastname@example.org.