March 20, 2019

Temple Judea Students Enjoy ‘Respecting Elders’

A group of 10-year-olds are busy decorating wooden picture frames with markers and watercolor paints. Alongside them, men and women old enough to be their grandparents are helping them. Once the frames are completed, their photos are taken and placed in the frames as a memento of the day.

The children are fifth-graders from Temple Judea in Tarzana and the adults are residents of the Los Angeles Jewish Home (LAJH) Eisenberg Village campus in Reseda. The event is part of the students’ mitzvah project, “respecting elders,” through a program with LAJH. 

“There’s a great deal of happiness derived from these programs,” said Caryl Geiger, activities director for Eisenberg Village, LAJH. She has been coordinating these types of programs for 33 years.

“At first, I thought I could understand how our residents would be very happy to see children, but I didn’t understand that the children [also] would be eager and happy to see our residents,” she said.

Resident Myra Blain said of the children’s visit, “It was wonderful to see [them]. They make me feel so good.”

Audrey Berger, another resident, added, “I miss my grandchildren and love being with the youngsters. This is fantastic.”

And student Sadie Leavens said, “I really enjoyed talking to my buddy about what we like to do in our free time and what we are good at.” 

The relationship began when Temple Judea fifth-grade teachers Lauren Elan Helsper and Ravit Sebbah started a pen pal program. The students wrote notes that were taken to the home and each child was then matched with a senior. 

During the students’ Dec. 9 visit, along with decorating the picture frames, they also brought socks for the residents (part of their mitzvah project sock drive) and pompom bookmarks they had made. 

Led by music teacher Elizabeth Woolf, the students sang for – and then with – the LAJH residents.

Accompanied by music teacher Elizabeth Woolf, the students sang “Oseh Shalom” and “Od Yavo Shalom” for the residents before celebrating the last day of Hanukkah with sufganiyot.  

“Part of respecting elders is going to visit them and interact with them, so I wanted to make sure we did something to incorporate that,” Elan Helsper said. 

“This shows the students how to practice the values they learn inside the classroom. L’dor v’dor — from generation to generation. They are really enjoying it,” Sebbah added.

“I hope this is the beginning of fostering a relationship between the residents and my students,” Elan Helsper said. “Our older generations have a lot of insight. They’ve accomplished a lot of things and we need to show them the respect that they deserve, and we can learn a lot from them.”

The teachers plan to maintain the relationship between their students and the residents with more letters throughout the year. They also hope to have another get-together by Passover.

Elan Helsper said doing a mitzvah is more than just opening your wallet or donating a can of tuna to a food drive. It’s about giving of yourself and it’s important to teach that to children.  

“I am hoping that is a lesson they will take from this and carry on into other aspects of their lives and teach that to their children,” she said. “I remember my mom used to take us to visit our great-grandmother once a month. I know it really meant a lot to her.” n