Los Angeles Jewish Home's Blog
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
How Do We Turn Life Around? — Letter from the Rabbi
We may try to find a way forward, perhaps by meeting with a psychologist or some other wise listening person, perhaps by prayer, perhaps by throwing ourselves into activity. Over recent weeks, through my teaching in preparation for the festival of Shavuot, I have been inspired by another kind of key to unlock the gates that seem to keep us trapped.
Let’s look at the miserable situation of Naomi, as told in the biblical Book of Ruth (read every year on the second day of Shavuot). She has left Bethlehem in the Land of Israel, together with her husband Elimelech and their two sons Machlon and Chilion, and settled in the Land of Moab. But in the months and years that follow, disaster strikes – again and again and again! First Naomi’s husband dies. Her sons marry Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth, but after some years both sons die, and Naomi is left with only her daughters-in-law.
It is not hard, I think, to imagine just how desolate Naomi is, having lost her husband and both her sons. Naomi feels that life in Moab has nothing to offer her now, and decides to go back to Bethlehem. She tries to persuade her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, each to return to her family home, where they might marry Moabite husbands, and find security. At first both young women insist on staying with Naomi, but in the end Orpah gives away and reluctantly returns to her family home.
As for Ruth, her words must be among the most beautiful expressions of love and loyalty in all the Bible, indeed in all literature: Wherever you go I will go and wherever you stay I will stay. Your people shall be my people and your God my God. Wherever you die will I die, and beside you will I be buried. How can Naomi argue against such love and such absolute determination?
Why does Ruth make such an astonishing and moving pledge? She can have no expectation of reward, and must know that Naomi is right: Ruth would have a much better chance of security and happiness if she returns to her family and lives among her own people. What is so beautiful about Ruth’s pledge to Naomi is that it is pure giving, pure love.
So the two women go on to Bethlehem together, where the turns of the story lead Ruth to a good man called Boaz. Ruth and Boaz marry, and Ruth gives birth to a son – the grandchild Naomi never expected to hold. Through that son, two generations later, comes the great King David. How did such misery, as Naomi had experienced in Moab, turn to such nachas (joy)?
Surely it is Ruth’s selfless kindness towards her mother-in-law, with no expectation of reward, which brings about the change in the universe of these two women. Is there a lesson for us? Can our own selfless generosity change the world we live in?
When I raised this in my discussion groups, many residents were absolutely clear: yes we can change our world for the better; we can turn our life around. Some said it is because we change when we are particularly kind to others; others said that our own generosity can make others treat us better. I myself do believe that a selfless act of kindness and giving, without any expectation of reward, changes the universe for both the giver and the person who receives the act of kindness. We are no longer stuck in misery: we are in a new world.
Chag Shavuot Sameach - Happy Shavuot!
Monday, April 29, 2013
Skirball Hospice Voted One of SFV's Best Places to Work!
This recognition is powerful since it is based on our staff's opinions of what it is like to work at Skirball Hospice – day in and day out – and the confidence this expresses in how we are functioning together for the benefit of our patients and families.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
What Do We Do With Our Hurts — Letter from the Rabbi
I think most of us can recall all sorts of ways we've been hurt, in our feelings, our body or our pocketbook. What do we do with these hurts? For some, what comes naturally is to take them out on others – to damage others like we've been damaged. Others may see the best thing to do is put aside our hurts (if not quite forgive and forget), and get on with our lives.
Because of a Torah reading this month that contains that powerful principle, Love your neighbor as yourself (sometimes called the Golden Rule), I have been thinking about a famous variation of it. Some of you may be familiar with the story about Hillel, the great Jewish sage who lived two thousand years ago: a non-Jewish person came before Hillel wanting to be converted, on condition that Hillel would teach him the whole of Torah while the man was standing on one foot. Hillel said to him, "What is hateful to you, do not do to others: that is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary; go and learn it."
What Hillel is doing here is taking the Golden Rule and making it much easier to understand and use. Love your neighbor as yourself is a wonderful principle from which all other moral rules derives, but it is not always easy to know how to apply to our lives. However, if we can hold in our minds the words of Hillel – What is hateful to you, do not do to others – we have a ready guide to behavior. For this principle tells us what to do with our own feelings about how we like, or hate, to be treated, and what to do with all those hurts we have suffered: not to put them aside, not to take them out on others, but instead to use them to guide our life and our actions for the good.
For instance, if I know how horrible it was for me to be teased or subjected to cruel words, I must never do that to others. If I recall the hurt I felt as a child being called a "dirty Jew" (thankfully that was not a frequent happening), then that must guide how I think about other peoples, or religions, or races, or nationalities: not ascribe negative characteristics to those groups, and not treat members of them badly because of those imagined characteristics.
If I have felt ignored when I was in need or distress, or when I had something to say, then I need to be especially careful not to ignore others. If I have found my reputation damaged because people have been gossiping about me, I must guard against gossiping about others. Of course there are many wrongs that I personally haven’t suffered, but I can imagine how much I'd hate the experience, and that should be a warning bell for me not to cause such wrongs to others.
Hillel's demand that we use our own experience and feelings as a guide to action is reflects a teaching found frequently in Torah, about how we should treat the "stranger" – i.e. the immigrant from another land who lives amongst us. The Torah teaches: "When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. He shall be to you as one of your citizens: you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." We are to use our own bad experiences as strangers (and slaves) in Egypt – or wherever we have lived as a minority community in a country not our own – to ensure that strangers among us are treated much better.
While this is how Torah tells us to treat the stranger, Hillel's teaching, What is hateful to you, do not do to others, is a powerful reminder about all our actions. Our experiences, bad experiences in particular, are to be central to our moral stance in the world; and we cannot claim to be living ethically if we ignore those experiences in how we treat others.
Monday, April 8, 2013
Chai Journal: Life at the Home…in the Residents’ Words
You’re probably wondering how the newsletter came to be…One day, residents Ellis Simon and Jules Berlinsky (of blessed memory) were enjoying a meal in the EV dining room. Ellis wondered aloud why the Home didn’t have a newsletter to let residents know what was going on. He was surprised when Jules responded that, indeed, there had been one in the past, which had unfortunately fallen by the wayside. The two gentlemen decided to try their luck at getting the newsletter started again. Each wrote a few articles, made 50 copies, and circulated them among the residents. The response was so positive, they took the idea to the Home’s administration. It was decided a committee of interested residents would be formed, and a staff person would participate. The residents would write the articles and the Home would print and distribute. The publication would be called the Chai Journal…and, more than 10 years later, it’s still bringing all the latest news from around the EV campus and the Home straight to the residents’ doors. Covering special events, holidays, and other activities, the Chai Journal also includes profiles of residents and Jewish Home staff, plus there’s a little bit of “did you know” in the Around the Village column.
Facilitated by RCFE activity director Jacqui Lewinter, the Chai Journal currently has 7 writers: Helen Bragar, Nettie Freeman, Alice Kulick, Rhoda Levinson, Jeanette Schlesinger, Ellis Simon and Joy Snyder. According to Jacqui, the Chai Journal is a great activity because it provides residents with a responsibility – and a creative outlet - while at the same time being fun. “Basically acting as reporters, our writers do research, which is mentally stimulating, and get to know people they are interviewing at a deeper, more thoughtful level, which is emotionally stimulating,” she explains.
At a recent meeting of the Chai Journal editorial staff, the group talked about their experiences. Here are just a few of their comments:
- “I enjoy doing interviews…sometimes people tell me more than I ask them for!” ~ Helen Bragar
- “It’s been a great joy working with Jacqui and the group." ~ Nettie Freeman
- “I find it very inspirational to be a part of the Chai Journal." ~ Alice Kulick
- “Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly….I gotta write! Doing interviews gives me an opportunity to ask questions I would never ask in polite society!" ~ Rhoda Levinson
- “It’s a challenge, and it’s good to be challenged as we grow older.” ~ Jeanette Schlesinger
- “I love the Home so much that I want everybody to know what a great place this is.” ~ Ellis Simon
- “Basically it’s a fun thing, and I’m all for fun at this stage of the game!” ~ Joy Snyder
For more information about the Chai Journal, please contact Jacqui Lewinter, RCFE activity aide, at (818) 774-3236 or Jacqui.Lewinter@jha.org.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Nurse Assistant Class Graduates from Annenberg School of Nursing
With the room full of well-wishers, flowers, and balloons, Marie Fagan, ASN director, welcomed everyone and spoke about the graduates with great admiration. Jewish Home chief operating officer Larissa Stepanians wished everyone the best in their upcoming careers, adding they will always be part of the Home’s family.
Graduate Melanie Halstead gave the student welcome and thanked everyone for their support and encouragement. “As we embark on this life-changing milestone and launch a new career, please know we could not have done this without you.”
The graduates received their diplomas and class pin before the enthusiastic crowd. Graduate Debra Jackson shared a poem by Gail Lindsay, entitled Who Can You Be? “To some you’ll be hope, to others, strength…Just who can you be?...You’re a nurse’s aide, you see.”
Closing remarks were given by nurse assistant program instructor Myrna Ragovin, who spoke about how six strangers came together quickly as a group and as friends. “There’s much love here,” she said. The graduates showed their appreciation to the ASN faculty and staff with flowers and a class photo album.
To view the graduation photo album, please click here.
(And be sure to like the Annenberg School of Nursing on Facebook!)
On behalf of the Los Angeles Jewish Home and the Annenberg School of Nursing, we congratulate:
and wish them the best as they embrace the field of nursing.
For information about the nurse assistant or vocational nurse programs at the Annenberg School of Nursing, please contact Cindy Thomas at (818) 757-4431 or email@example.com, or visit the ASN website at www.asn.edu.