Dancing the day away

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If you had the chance to go back to your senior prom, would you? About 60 Kosher Senior Café regulars and newcomers responded with a resounding “yes.” On Sept. 16, the first-ever “Senior Prom” was held in the social hall of the Dwares Jewish Community Center in Providence, where floral displays, a live band and special decorations welcomed the diverse group. 

“It’s like a milestone,” says Dorothy Retting, who serves as welcome desk supervisor at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island and came up with the punny title. “It’s important to have that, whether you’re 16 or 76.” 

“I think seniors have a lot to teach us,” adds Rebecca D’Arezzo, membership associate at the Alliance. D’Arezzo has long wanted to develop additional programming for older populations, a desire compounded by her mother’s isolating five-year experience in an assisted-living facility. “We have to take care of them. They’re part of our community.” 

The idea for a prom was first sparked in early 2022, when Retting and D’Arezzo started collaborating with Neal Drobnis, nutrition coordinator at the Kosher Senior Café, and Elaine Shapiro, assistant coordinator. The Kosher Café is a program of Jewish Collaborative Services. Support for the project ballooned over time, receiving financial or practical support from Bay State Physical Therapy, the Sandra Bornstein Holocaust Education Center, the Alliance and even the City of Providence. 

Guests were encouraged to dress up for the event, which started at 11 a.m., but no formal dress code was required. Organizers and volunteers weren’t sure what to expect, but they were prepared to entertain more than 80 guests. Kosher lunch and desserts were served, and the Canary Diamonds singing with the Bill Moretti Trio brought a handful of guests to the dance floor. 

“They went all out in ways that made people feel special,” said Drobnis of the planning committee. “The number of people who were dancing was definitely a surprise.” 

Organizers hope the event will be revived next year – and would like to see it become an annual tradition.