by Sharon Mann
Congregations are always thinking of new ways to attract and interest younger members. While this is, of course, essential, it is perhaps just as important for congregations to consider what they are doing to engage and enrich older members who want to remain connected as they deal with circumstances that arise later in life.
At my congregation, Kehillat Emet VeShalom
(the only synagogue in Nahariya, Israel, affiliated with the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism
), we’ve been dealing with a unique version of this scenario. Looking at our community, we asked ourselves: What happens to olim
(immigrants) who make aliyah
(move to Israel) at an advanced age? Many of these olim
live on low, fixed incomes and have difficulty learning Hebrew well. Our congregation saw that these challenges limited new residents’ ability to take part in Israeli society and that, despite the passage of time, they continued to struggle with difficulties adjusting to life in Israel.
Between 2002 and 2003, a large wave of older immigrants from Argentina settled in Nahariya. Our congregation stepped up to the challenge of working with these olim
, as well as with veteran immigrants, to provide them with support and the opportunity to participate in Jewish social and educational programs that they otherwise could not afford or understand. We've also embraced new and veteran English-speaking immigrants from across the religious spectrum.