High school seniors aren’t the only graduates of the season. Every year in June, residents of the Lester Senior Housing Community in Whippany and of Jewish Federation Plaza in West Orange participate in a siyum, a graduation ceremony, marking their completion of the Life Long Learning Institute.
This year’s event, including presentations, music, and food, took place June 8 at Lester on the Aidekman campus.
The institute is one of the many programs run by the Joint Chaplaincy Committee, a department of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, in partnership with the Jewish Community Housing Corporation. Underwritten by the Murnick family, the program was formulated and launched by Jay Murnick in 2011 during the first year of his three-year term as JCHC president, to provide continued Jewish learning to the residents of the Jewish senior housing facilities. The chaplaincy directs and oversees the institute and reaches out to community clergy and educators to offer classes three times each week.
Sixty to 75 residents each year study Jewish texts and discuss such topics as “Ethics of our Fathers,” “The Book of Psalms,” and Jewish music and history with local rabbis, cantors, and educators. Organizers designed a cooperative learning environment in which participants help determine the topics to be covered, provide feedback, and guide the course of discussion.
The program “enables participants to ask questions about life and Jewish issues that have always concerned them and to discover answers that add meaning and length to their lives,” said Chaim Lauer, the initiative’s primary educator at Lester. The institute, he added, “challenges their minds, touches their souls, and binds them together as a Jewish community. When you study together, you are together.”
Dolly Moser is a Lester resident who was instrumental in developing the program in partnership with Murnick and the committee. At the siyum, committee director Cecille Asekoff presented an award to Moser in recognition of her lifelong dedication to the Jewish community and Jewish education.
“Education is a fundamental bedrock of Judaism for everyone of every age,” said Asekoff. “Many of the residents at the housing facilities have a difficult time getting around. Through this program, we are bringing talmud Torah to them where they live…. It’s just one example of how agencies and individuals within our Jewish community come together to create a caring community.”
Murnick, who served as JCHC president 2011-14, said the institute “benefits our residents by allowing them to exercise their minds through meaningful and thought-provoking discussion about all aspects of Judaism and its impact on their lives.
“My family and I are proud of our ongoing association with and are heartened by the continued participation of so many Lester and Plaza residents.”