Tamara Harkavy — How You Help
How You Help: Lunch Serves Up Independence and Community for Rosalie
“Kosher hot lunches are the most important thing out there.”
“It’s like coming home. I’m among my own people and it’s a good feeling,” says Rosalie Abrams, talking about the Mayerson JCC’s kosher hot lunch program. At 82, this Mason resident has been coming for kosher hot lunches at the J for over 10 years, two to four times a week.
A feeling of home is a lot of credit to give to a simple lunch.
But Rosalie’s experience shows that the kosher hot lunch program, funded by the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, is at the center of a web of support that promotes independence and community for older adults.
Rosalie has survived many personal ups and downs. Her diabetes and recent heart problems, for example, have slowed her down. But she is “still fiercely independent,” says Susan Bradley Meyer, the Director of Senior Adult Services at the JCC. She enjoys volunteering for the ShalomPhone, which means she checks up on a 96-year-old woman every day. She is close to, and obviously proud of, her children and grandchildren.
“I love the J’s baklava … which I shouldn’t be eating but I do,” admits Rosalie, laughing. “And brisket is my favorite at the kosher meals.”
Why is the lunch so valuable?
“If you’re single, isolation is the worst thing—loneliness will kill you at any age,” says Bradley Meyer. “Kosher hot lunches keep people that are living close to the edge from slipping over the edge in terms of poverty, food insecurities. I can’t tell you: coming and having lunch with your friends, it’s nutrition, it’s an outlet for emotions. You get socialization, you get access to services. To me, kosher hot lunches are the most important thing out there.”
According to the AARP Foundation, the health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
But Rosalie is embedded in community. Not only her family—she lives with her daughter—but here at the JCC, too. Asked whether she has friends here, she says, “Oh yes. Many friends. Some of the people here, we go way back 25, 30 years.” At the Shabbat luncheon, Rosalie usually eats with Shirley Goldfarb, a friend that she’s known for 30 years. “We reminisce about things that we did years ago, like being on the bowling team,” Rosalie says, laughing.
Rosalie has enjoyed swimming, other exercise programs, movie screenings, and discussion groups, which are other important parts of the JCC’s services for seniors. The hot kosher lunch program also links seniors to transportation and social workers.
Rosalie builds the J into her routine. “I go to the J a minimum of two days a week. I go normally Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays; Mondays and Fridays for discussion groups, Wednesday for the Wii bowling. If there’s a movie on Friday that I want to see, I stay for the discussion group, the kosher meal, and then the movie.”
The program is also growing. In 2010 the JCC served 12,902 hot kosher meals. In 2018 it served 19,644 meals to 884 people.
And the price? “The price is wonderful,” says Rosalie. “Where can you go and get a bagel and lox and cream cheese for $4? It’s funded partly by Jewish Federation.”
“While we do have people who can afford this, we also have many who cannot,” says Bradley Meyer. “It’s officially a suggested donation. Many people will come in and volunteer for me by the end of the month because they can’t pay. They have nothing left.”
Rosalie loves the JCC. She moved a few years ago so she could easily take the bus to the JCC. “I like the fact that they do the Shabbat Service on Friday at lunch,” says Rosalie. “The kosher hot lunch program is a wonderful program.”
Kosher hot lunches: it’s independence and community rolled up into a lox and cream cheese bagel. Or if you prefer, the baklava.
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