November 21, 2018

Lindsay Schacht: Senior citizens are better together with her

Lindsay Schacht was interested right away when her high school teachers announced that a group helping senior citizens was seeking volunteers. The Better Together program wanted Shalhevet High School students to visit and talk with residents of Beverly Hills Carmel North and South, two senior living homes.

Schacht, a junior at the time, and 11 other students started visiting the facilities once a week. She then began to take a leadership role with Better Together, and helped it grow. This year, the 17-year-old from Valley Village is the coordinator for the group, which now has 45 members and goes to the homes twice a week, an hour each time. Besides chatting with the seniors, they bring activities, costumes for Purim, and fun shtick for the holidays.

“The seniors show so much gratitude,” Schacht said. “They say they love our visits. We don’t just leave feeling good. We also learn so much from them. You get a real connection.”

Schacht hears touching stories from the seniors. Among them, a couple who have been married for 70 years told the volunteers about how they survived the Holocaust.

“They were best friends since the age of 5 and were separated during the war. Abe became a freedom fighter and Regina lived as a Christian in someone’s home until the war was over. After the war, the two were reunited and married almost immediately,” Schacht recounted. “Abe told us this story with such love and affection toward Regina and made sure to emphasize their luck and how much he loved her. He told us he buys her gifts all the time and loves her more and more each day.”

The seniors don’t shy away from giving advice to the students, many of whom are going to college. Schacht said, “They always tell us the biggest thing is to follow your dreams. They bring it up all the time. They say if you have a set goal in life, nothing will ever stop you.”

Before her involvement with Better Together, Schacht was a volunteer for Tomchei Shabbos, which gives to the needy of Los Angeles, and Friendship Circle, an organization that assists children with special needs. As a student at Shalhevet, she is required to fulfill 100 chesed (loving-kindness) hours before she graduates; she completed hers in the middle of junior year. Now, she participates in Better Together because she enjoys it.

Schacht always has had a connection with seniors; she said her grandmother is one of her best friends. “My grandmother is a Holocaust survivor and probably the strongest and smartest woman I know.”

To ensure that the program continues next year after she graduates and takes a gap year at the Israeli program Kivunim, Schacht is delegating some responsibilities to other Shalhevet students.

Natalie Weiss, director of admission for the school, credits Schacht for getting Better Together off the ground. “There weren’t many kids doing it. She encouraged dozens of kids to participate for the first time.”

In general, Weiss said she’s noticed that Schacht always seems affable toward others. “Lindsay is a really spirited and positive person,” she said. “She looks for ways to contribute. She’s the first person to say hi and welcome kids who are visiting the school for the day, and will offer to answer any questions they have.”

Though Schacht dedicates much of her time and energy to Better Together, she said she feels as if the elderly there give back just as much.

“I bring a lot of what I learn through the program to school. In my class, we talk about the notion that the Jews are the Chosen People. I asked the seniors what they thought about it, and they all said they were so proud to be Jewish. They were taken aback that anyone wouldn’t be. Their Jewish, national pride is something I learned from them.”