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Restoring Freedom

Photo: Jewish Home Family

All of us have lived through two incredibly difficult years.  We’ve lived through the challenges of lockdown, the fear of COVID and the loss of friends and loved ones.  It has been hard on everyone and, I think, hardest of all on our older adults.  Elders who live in residential settings have endured separation from their loved ones, confinement to their rooms, limited social gatherings and a generalized loss of freedom.  The curtain is, at long last, lifting and there is no greater indication of that than our celebration of Passover within the walls of our residential communities.

For the last two years I have thought that the words “Next year in Jerusalem” needed to be replaced with a heartfelt “Next year together again.” This year, finally, the words of my wish have come true.  For the first time since 2019 we were able to gather for Seder as a community. We were able to lift our glasses together, lift our voices in song and, in doing so, lift our hearts and our spirits.

As with many things, we took our ability to come together for granted.  Who could have ever imagined anything that would cause us to keep people separated? And, if it did, surely it would only be for days or maybe a week but never for months on end. That was inconceivable and, even now, seems impossible yet we all know it was true.

Knowing the harm that isolation causes, we eased restrictions as quickly as possible. Even during the darkest days we brought people into doorways and found ways to engage them so they did not feel alone. We used every avenue to connect families and, when visiting opened, we moved immediately to enable it.  But it is only in the last couple of months that we’ve been able to go back to larger group programs, to bring people together, exercising caution of course but focusing on that all important feeling of connection.

It all really culminated late last week with the celebration of our Passover Seders.  We have had a tradition of coming together as a community for Seder, gathering with elders and staff, looking and feeling much like a large, extended family. And to see that energy and life restored was extraordinarily powerful.

The story of Passover is a story of freedom.  It is a saga of a remarkable escape from bondage. This year it did feel as if we were echoing the story in our own way.  The freedom to be together, to enjoy one another’s company, the freedom to feel far closer to “normal” than we have in years, all of it was heady and emotional.  Our elders are deserving of their freedom and their choices.  We are grateful that those have been restored and committed to protecting them, even more vigilantly, going forward.

About the Author
Carol Silver Elliott is President and CEO of The Jewish Home Family, which runs NJ's Jewish Home at Rockleigh, Jewish Home Assisted Living, Jewish Home Foundation and Jewish Home at Home. She joined The Jewish Home Family in 2014. Previously, she served as President and CEO of Cedar Village Retirement Community in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is past chair of LeadingAge and the Association of Jewish Aging Services.
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