Local Briefs MA News

Coping with Caregiving

Sinai Temple and Temple Beth El are teaming up to celebrate Shavuot with an evening of worship and discussion with Professor Norman Cohen, who will speak on “Caring for Our Loved Ones: What We Can Learn From the Characters of the Bible.”
The event, to be held June 7 at 7 p.m. at Sinai, is part of a year-long exploration of caregiving by Sinai and Beth El in co-operation with Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts (JFS).

Prof. Norman Cohen

Norman Cohen is professor of Midrash at Hebrew Union College in New York City, and is the author of several books, including “Voices from Genesis:  Guiding us Through the Stages of our Life and Self, Struggle,” and “Change:  The Family Conflict Stories in Genesis and their Healing Insights for our Lives.”
Sinai and Temple Beth El, along with the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts and Congregation B’nai Torah in Longmeadow, have come together a lot during the past year through the “Try a Synagogue” program, which seeks to encourage the unaffiliated to take a look at what the Jewish community has to offer.
“The ’Try A Synagogue’ program has kind of laid the groundwork for bringing our congregations together in a way like this. More than that, this program on caregiving is a result of a year’s worth of conversations and consideration about caregiving,” said Rabbi Mark Dov Shapiro of Sinai Temple.
Last summer, after both Rabbi Shapiro and Beth El’s Rabbi Amy Wallk Katz began hearing more and more from their congregants about their own issues and struggles with caregiving, they joined together with JFS to implement programming dealing specifically with the caregiving issue.
“It is the issue for the 21st century,” said Rabbi Katz. “People are aging and dealing with older parents. I just have heard about it in so many places.”
Both rabbis spoke about caregiving and distributed literature on the subject during the High Holidays. The congregations co-sponsored a panel discussion and lecture on the issue, and participated in a joint book review of Gail Sheehy’s “Passages in Caregiving.”  Last summer a support group for caregivers was launched. The group now meets weekly at the Springfield JCC. “The culmination of this whole process is Norman Cohen,” Rabbi Shapiro said.
“He is remarkable…he has had a 25- year focus on family issues as they express themselves in the Torah and the later Jewish interpretations,” he added. “That is one of his biggest concerns – how can we read the book of Genesis as really the story about our lives…That is why his is the perfect person to think about caregiving and us and what is already tucked away there in the Torah. He is really able to open the Torah up in a way that very few people can imagine.”
This program is underwritten by a grant from the Harold Grinspoon Supporting Foundation and the cooperative efforts of Sinai and Temple Beth El.
“Part of what we are realizing is that in so many ways, when we pool our efforts we can bring vibrancy and exciting programs to those congregants of ours that are interested,” Rabbi Katz said.


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