Sacred Aging: Telling the Story of Our Ancestors Today Program Addresses the Needs of the Longevity Revolution
Tradition teaches that the Jewish people retell the story of our ancestors leaving the Land of Egypt during Passover. Each year the youngest person at the table asks the Four Questions to begin the history of the Israelites Exodus from Egypt. But what do you do if the youngest person at the table is 65 years old?
Congregation Mkor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ has the answer. By running a seniors Passover Seder this congregation looks at the story of Passover the story that defines the Jewish people together with the stories of the lives of these older people the stories that define this generation.
While the Four Questions are an important part of the Seder, said Dr. Patricia A. J. Kay, MD. FAPA, the senior Seder coordinator, the seniors seem to stress the significance of the Maggid (honored Seder leader and story teller) and the history it related.
Mkor Shaloms senior Seder and other programs like it are part of a larger effort throughout North America called Sacred Aging. Run by the Union for Reform Judaisms department of Jewish Family Concerns, Sacred Aging strives to address the needs of the 20 percent of the North American Jewish population that is over the age of 65. Rabbi Richard Address, the director of Jewish Family Concerns, said Sacred Aging programs are blossoming across North America.
Rabbi Address said several congregations, including University Synagogue in Los Angeles, Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation and Temple Israel in Memphis have begun Sacred Aging courses, many choosing Legacy Programs. These programs are quite simple; a person writes his life story while incorporating Jewish texts, said Rabbi Address. In its simplicity it creates beautiful and intricate new traditions by incorporating the story of one Jewish person with the history of the Jewish people.
The Sacred Aging program helps congregations meet the needs of this longevity revolution. The development of a theology of relationships will keep people coming back to a synagogue community, said Rabbi Address. As people live longer, healthier and more spiritual lives, the need of these people and their communities will change. We are seeing the effects of this already.
Other major concerns being addressed by Sacred Aging programs include how to fulfill the Commandment to honor your parents when they become infirm or are no longer able to take care of themselves, how to address the ideas of love and co-habitation between non-married elderly people, and what the development of new life cycle events to celebrate such a long lifespan.
The Union for Reform Judaism (formerly the Union of American Hebrew Congregations) is the central body of Reform Judaism in North America, uniting 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 synagogues. Union services include camps, music and book publishing, outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, educational programs, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C.