Pictured above ~ Memphis Jewish Federation’s Jewish Activities Coordinator Hilly Safier, second from right, visits Jewish residents at Town Village at Audubon Park with youth volunteers.

Memphis Jewish community’s Senior Services Collaborative brings Judaism and its traditions to seniors wherever they live.

Formed after Memphis Jewish Federation’s Community Needs Assessment Study identified the challenge of connecting local seniors to a meaningful Jewish life, this group of professionals and volunteers from local agencies has made big moves to expand programs and services, helping seniors find a place in this community that fits their lifestyle.

Jewish Activities Coordinator Hilly Safier has significantly expanded senior access to Jewish experiences. She’s helped Jews living in senior facilities, in their own homes, at community centers and synagogues. Many of them had been lacking congregational affiliations or family connections to Judaism. By organizing engagement programs, delivering Shabbat and holiday packages, and spending time with seniors, she’s changed lives. “It’s so nice that someone remembers,” said one senior to Hilly while visiting her home during Hanukkah.

Through relationships with staff at facilities, Hilly is forging opportunities for deeper programming. Facilities have been more involved in holiday programs, helping recruit Jewish residents for programs and providing holiday-themed food. One activities director said: “Seeing the smiles on faces and knowing how important this is to them makes this program crucial for us to maintain. I find the program to be excellent and the volunteers are a joy to work with.”

Rabbi Cantor David Julian, Cantor Aryeh Samberg and Rabbi Cantor John Kaplan visit Town Village for Hanukkah.

Hilly’s work is funded by a Fedovation grant from Memphis Jewish Federation and supported by collaborations. The Rosh Hashanah packages Hilly delivered were donated by Baron Hirsch Congregation and included cards decorated by students from Margolin Hebrew Academy. She’s organized clergy visits from all Memphis synagogues to senior facilities, and students from both Margolin Hebrew Academy and Bornblum Jewish Community School have helped deliver Shabbat and holiday packages.

Hilly also created a lecture series at the Memphis Jewish Community Center immediately following the senior exercise group. On one occasion, a senior was so moved by the lecture that she requested copies of the source sheet for her friends.

Mary Elizabeth Jones, chair of the Collaborative, is director of Social Services for Jewish Family Service at the MJCC. Under her leadership, two new initiatives are underway.

A Senior Transportation Survey shed light on senior transportation needs. The survey asked about days and times when transportation is most needed, how much they can pay, needs after the ride such as help getting in and out of the vehicle, or assistance with packages. This information will point to solutions to seniors’ mobility limitations.

Mary Elizabeth is also working with a Caregiver Training subcommittee to organize resources and training for seniors’ caregivers. More details will be forthcoming.

 A large-print Senior Services Directory provides information about available community services. It is also available in digital form at www.memphisjewishseniors.org. The brochures were mailed to seniors’ homes, and are available at Jewish Community Partners, synagogues, senior-serving agencies, and at independent and assisted living facilities, clinics and hospitals. It’s clear these efforts are meeting a need; 3,000 copies were scooped up in no time. Agencies report that the resource is invaluable for seniors and their loved ones, packed with information about living a rich life as a senior in the Memphis Jewish community. Keep your eyes out; Federation will update the brochure to reflect new services and programming.

The Collaborative also engages seniors and their caregivers through a monthly senior e-blast, which has been very well-received and gaining subscribers. A new Memphis Jewish Seniors Facebook group was created.

For more information about the Senior Services Collaborative, or a role for you to play, contact Bluma Zuckerbrot-Finkelstein, bzuckerbrot-finkelstein@jcpmemphis.org.