WARWICK – “Honor thy father and thy mother” was the theme at the Jewish Seniors Agency’s annual meeting; the Fifth Commandment has been the focus of the agency’s mission for more than a century.
Admitting to doubts three years ago about assuming the presidency (as her mother had died shortly before that, and her father even earlier), Susan Bazar, outgoing board president, said, “By serving as president, I was indeed honoring my parents. They believed in helping, where and when they could … In upholding our mission, I’m keenly aware of the value of relationships. The relationship between a Jewish Eldercare of Rhode Island visitor and [his or her] nursing home friend … it’s not just a perfunctory visit, but rather, a meaningful exchange of tradition.”
Citing other examples of JSA-fostered relationships – such as food delivery to homebound individuals coupled with a leisurely visit by the volunteer and caring relationships between Tamarisk administrators and residents, Bazar said, “These moments are powerful and life-affirming.” The JSA will, she said, “continue to respond to the dynamic of aging with dignity and grace.”
Jeffrey Savit, Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island chief executive officer and president, offered greetings and Ethan Adler gave a d’var Torah.
JSA Executive Director Paul Barrette, Treasurer Drew Kaplan, Funds Management Committee Chair Martin Dittleman and To Life Campaign Co-Chair Jim Galkin presented reports.
Galkin, a JSA board member, paid homage to Maurice Glicksman for his longtime support of JSA.
Galkin drew appreciative laughter from the 60 individuals attending the May 22 meeting at Tamarisk when he thanked Glicksman’s wife Yetta “for putting up with this man for all these years.”
Galkin then introduced Dr. Stanley Aronson, who received the Maurice Glicksman Leadership Award. Briefly summarizing Aronson’s many accomplishments and achievements – including academic positions, several community awards and honors and publication of scientific papers and newspaper columns, Galkin summarized what Aronson, a retired dean of the medical school at Brown University and a regular columnist for both this newspaper and the Providence Journal, means “to the Jewish community as a whole and the Jewish elderly in particular.”
Affectionate teasing ensued, as Galkin read a poem he composed that began, “Twas the night before Shabbes …” – a parody of the well-known Christmas poem – which highlighted Aronson’s myriad contributions, including the founding of Brown’s medical school and Rhode Island Home and Hospice and reviving the JSA as well as encouraging the building of Tamarisk.
“Stan, it is with … our most sincere respect and admiration that we all present you with this year’s Maurice Glicksman Leadership Award,” said Galkin. “We thank you for everything you have done for this entire community, especially the Jewish community.”
Aronson spoke briefly on his own behalf and that of his wife Gale: “An experience like this is a very humbling one … to be cherished. Our Jewish community is very precious to all of us, particularly to me.”
Thanking a few individuals who, he said, had taught him so much, he singled out the Glicksmans and thanked Maurice, a former Brown University provost, for bringing Brown University “kicking and screaming into the 20th century.”
Aronson also received a citation from the City of Providence from Mayor Angel Taveras.
Marcia Gerstein discussed JSA Women’s Association activities and video reports from other staff members followed, including Bonnie Sekeres of Shalom Apartments, Roberta Ragge of Tamarisk and Susan Adler of the To Life Center Adult Day Services, Jewish Eldercare of Rhode Island and the Louis and Goldie Chester Full Plate Kosher Food Pantry (which has distributed more than 135 tons of food in its nearly four-year tenure).
Deb Blazer, Alice Goldstein, Andrew Lamchick and this reporter were installed as new board members, as were Rabbi Richard Perlman as secretary, Drew Kaplan as treasurer, Bernice Weiner as second vice president, Jack Nassau as first vice president and Jeff Padwa as president.
Before introducing Padwa, Mayor Taveras thanked the JSA for everything it does.
“ You really are making it better for everyone,” he said.
Padwa – who, in his “day job” as the City Solicitor for Providence reports directly to Mayor Taveras – thanked first his boss for setting the example of leadership and then his family and past and present JSA leaders and staff.
“I am incredibly passionate about [JSA] services,” Padwa said. The memory of his grandfather Asher, who sacrificed for his family, gave Padwa, “a sense of responsibility to do everything that I can do, to take care of seniors, to take care of those that have sacrificed for their families,” he said.
In closing, he added, “Together, we can provide outstanding services, not only to Jewish seniors, but to all seniors in this state.”
Memorial plaques, stored out of sight at Tamarisk after being removed from the Jewish Home on Hillside Avenue, have been digitized, said Barrette. Copies of a video, “The Plaques of History,” depicting the plaques and stained glass windows, will be available at the Rhode Island Jewish Historical Association and the JSA.
The meeting’s final moments included a surprise for Bazar, whose family established a memorial-giving program, the Honor Walk Program, in her honor. Bazar received the first brick as a gift from her family.
JSA: 351-4750 or jsari.org.