Saturday, December 21, 2002

Karen talks about work

Meeting The Elderly

Okay, so I'm here to study, remember? And as part of that purpose, I am visiting a series of programs for seniors, including a "Warm Home" program which is exactly what it sounds like -- small gatherings for otherwise isolated elderly within walking distance of their own homes, where they can congregate. It's a little more complicated, but if you really want to know, wait for my paper (currently in draft form back at the hotel).

Most of the warm home programs I've seen are for Russian olim, seniors who either moved here by themselves or with their families. Either way, they are often alone and not working, and have trouble learning their new homeland's language. So getting together with folks from the old country can be comforting. These warm home programs are very mixed -- always a few more women, but the one I visited here in Pizgat Zev was nearly 50% men as well. They choose their own program, and this group was very much like the others I've visited -- they relied on their own members to provide lectures and topics of interest. Very easy to do in a group of retired scientists, historians, engineers, etc. etc. They were filled with advice for me, as well -- sharing their insights and assumptions about their counterparts in New York, and what would and wouldn't work for them.

Tben, we visit Afula, north of Nazareth (and tantilizingly close to Tiberius, by American standards, but not enough time on this trip). This warm home has been described to me as "Argentinian." Actually, it's Argentines, Brazilians, Venezualans, with a sprinkling of seniors from Paraguay, Urugay, and Columbia. Thankfully, my very poor Spanish feels hundreds of times better than my useless Hebrew, and I can communicate basic social courtesies much to their delight. This is also good because otherwise, it's a complicated translation process -- Ladino to Spanish to Hebrew to English. Nearly everyone in the room arrived within the last 10 years. They are spending one night a week together learning Hebrew, and a second learning Israel's history. When I ask them whether they have lectures conducted by other members of their group, they laugh. At first, they think I am asking if they bring in professionals for lectures, but when they understand, they are incredulous. Lectures? Too much like work. They are retired, in the land of their ancestors, and learning to be here. It's a group that's been together for only about four months, but is clearly bonding well. I am sorry I have to leave them -- but we have a three hour drive back to Jerusalem to make that evening.

(Laurie adds- What Karen didn't mention was that she tried a little Ladino on these folks as well! Ladino is the language of the Sephardic Jews, a combination of Spanish, Hebrew and other words and sounds. At our synagogue, we sing a couple of Ladino songs from time to time. Of course, the one she remembered was a children's Hanukkah song, sort of like a tango, about lighting the candles. It's a counting song, with a stirring (grin) chorus of "Un candelika! Dos candelikas! Tres candelikas!" etc. I am sure the elderly Jews were charmed.)

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