When Scott Schnee blew into the shofar at Maple Pointe Assisted Living’s Rosh Hashanah service on Sept. 22, the crowd of seniors oohed and aahed as he held a note longer than expected, his face growing redder by the second.
“That’s a way to move us into the new year,” said a smiling Louise Skolnik, a member of Central Synagogue – Beth Emeth that helps run weekly Shabbat services at the facility.
Blowing the shofar, a musical ram’s horn traditionally used on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, was just one of the traditions that the Central Synagogue members brought to the dozen or so Maple Pointe residents in attendance for the special holiday. For about a decade, congregants have held weekly services in the center’s upstairs room that acts as a small theatre.
“People need the sense of community,” said Louise Skolnik, a Central Synagogue member that helped lead the service “…This movie room, when they are together on Shabbat, is transformed to a sanctuary. A sacred space.”
Seniors prayed together, clapping and singing along with the songs throughout the service. “To see how the songs really bring some of these residents out,” Barbara Prins said about the most rewarding part of organizing the services. “They hear the song and it’s in the deepest recesses of their body for some of them.”
Schnee added of the music: “It’s a connection where they feel together being Jewish and for those that have dementia even, or problems with memory, it seems to just naturally bring out natural memory.”
Prins said some of the seniors had told her they were worried that they would not be able to practice their faith while staying at Maple Pointe, and are thankful for the weekly services. “I think it’s great that they’re able to do something for us,” said Maple Pointe resident Arthur Saftler “…They do a wonderful job. It really makes it very pleasant.”
The best part about the service? “Just being with everybody and being as a congregation and getting to know our fellow members here,” said Ellen Lister, another resident. “It was very warming.”
The Central Synagogue members will be back to celebrate Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, on Sept. 29, the holiest day of the year in Judaism that involves fasting and prayer.
“There’s such a spirit of joy in doing this for us,” Skolnik said. “We get as much as we give in being here. It’s something I really treasure.”