The Arizona Jewish Post mentioned The Fountains in an article dedicated to sharing how senior living communities in Tucson help residents stay connected to Judais.
“I have a great passion for enabling the residents to celebrate Shabbat and the holidays,” says Abbie Stone, community life director at The Fountains at La Cholla. Stone organizes celebrations for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, Purim, Passover and a monthly Shabbat service. About 18 to 22 percent of the residents at the Fountains are Jewish.
For the past three years, Jewish residents have been able to attend High Holidays services shown on a “smart” television through live streaming broadcasts from Temple Emanu-El. Stone says residents also were served special meals for the High Holidays. Prior to Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi Thomas Louchheim of Congregation Or Chadash gave a talk to the residents about the holiday. The event was sweetened with refreshments of apples, honey, honey cake, challah, and wine.
“Right now we do a Shabbat service one Friday night a month, but I would love to expand this to every Friday,” says Stone. “We also encourage family members and members of the community to come for Shabbat.”
Currently, a hospice chaplain leads the service, although Stone would like to have a congregation bring their members to The Fountains once a month to conduct the service. They also light candles and have challah and wine.
“The residents here are very participatory and read parts of the service,” Stone says. “For Shabbat services we sit around a big table and face each other, and the residents really like this because it makes them feel like a family. They have often told me how pleasant it is to have such a strong sense of Judaism here.”
For Hanukkah there is a concert of Jewish music and the lighting of menorahs — many residents bring their own menorahs to share in the celebration. On Shabbat during Hanukkah residents are served a meal with latkes, sour cream, applesauce, and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts).
Cantor Janece Cohen of Or Chadash led this year’s seder, attended by 65 people including residents and family members. The seder is open to members of the Tucson community if space is available, and Stone says non-Jewish residents also attend the seder.
“One of our residents, Bernie Greenapple, davens like a hazzan (cantor) and opened the seder,” Stone says. “The seder is an intergenerational experience. My daughter who is 21 came to the seder, and some of the residents’ grandchildren participated as well. To me this is an illustration of what Passover is all about.”
“We have a life-long learning program, and when I teach a class about Jewish holidays, I ask the residents to share what is meaningful to them and how they celebrated with their families,” says Stone. She adds that non-Jewish residents also attend these classes and have told her they enjoy learning about Jewish traditions and customs.
Although people from the greater Tucson community volunteer to help with holidays, Shabbat or teaching a class, residents who call The Fountains home are always willing to help. “There are many ways to contribute and we all have a basic need as humans to make a difference,” says Stone. “And that does not cease if our lifestyle changes and we move into a retirement community.”
Korene Charnofsky Cohen is a freelance writer and editor in Tucson.