PHOTO: Gail Levine enjoys high tea in the sukkah at Rose Schnitzer Manor. Residents visited the sukkah one-by-one for tea and to shake the lulav and etrog to fulfill that mitzvah during Sukkot.
BY DEBORAH MOON
The High Holidays at Cedar Sinai Park were tremendously different, but they had so much continuity and so many innovative twists that one resident was inspired to write, “I am at the corner of joy and gratitude.”
The resident’s thank you note was a response to her high tea in the sukkah, a one-on-one experience with CSP Spiritual Life Coordinator Cathy Zheutlin that was just one of the holiday innovations used to create a sense of celebration.
“I am deeply grateful for the way our team and the community have come together since the COVID-19 pandemic started,” says CSP CEO Kimberly Fuson. “It takes every ounce of heart, valor and creative focus in each staff member across all departments to make certain our residents feel safe, loved and connected given these challenging circumstances.”
Cathy played a key role in coordinating virtual services for all residents and offering meaningful individualized or small group connections throughout the holidays.
“Because of COVID. we were not able to have gatherings or a banquet with families; that was a huge change,” says Cathy.
Despite being virtual, the CSP services had a very familiar feel.
“Amy Shapiro and her husband Jeff (Olenick) have led holiday services for 20-plus years,” says Cathy. “All our service leaders (Amy and Jeff, Avrel Nudelman, Eddy Shuldman, Lani Raider, Len and Elayne Shapiro, and Rabbi Barry Cohen) have been doing this for quite a few years, and all were willing to make their services virtual.”
While Rose Schnitzer Manor apartments have an internal TV system that allows for live programs, the rooms in Robison and the Harold Schnitzer Center for Living rely on cable television. “I have to submit programs two to three weeks in advance to Open Signal Public TV,” says Cathy. She says all the volunteer leaders recorded their services early, and Open Signal ran all the services at the appropriate time on one of their community access cable channels.
To add a personal touch, Cathy spent the first day of Rosh Hashanah in the two chapels on campus to have residents come to the Torah one by one (or two by two for couples) for a blessing and short discussion of the parsha (Torah portion). On day two, she led Tashlich for individuals and couples at the little stream behind Rose Schnitzer Manor.
For Yom Kippur, under state guidelines permitting small gatherings, groups of eight residents (including Sabina Shalom, right) joined Cathy in Zidell Hall for a brief Yizkor service.
The one-by-one experience was also used for Sukkot when residents could visit the sukkah for high tea and to shake the lulav. Residents who didn’t go to the sukkah were served high tea in their rooms.
“Residents were kvelling over the creative Rosh Hashanah dinner menu and Sukkot high tea,” says Kimberly, who praised CSP’s Chef Jon Wirtis and his team for heightening residents’ total culinary experience.
Chef Wirtis says it is also rewarding for the staff.
“It is such an honor to be the executive chef for our residents,” says Jon. “It is the friends and the fun that food brings together. Whether the food is delivered to resident rooms or to our restaurants’ tables, it is the human contact and the personal touch we will always cherish and have through food. The enjoyment it brings to our staff in the culinary department to share food that is fresh, local, delicious and nutritious, even in the most challenging of times, is a feeling to all of us that is priceless!”
Those personal relationships are also important to Community Program Director Nancy Heckler, who oversees life enrichment.
“This is a team that day after day creates, inspires and adapts, and this year during the High Holidays was no different,” says Nancy. “The commitment to our Jewish traditions, the value we place on each resident (scheduling, reminding and escorting persons where they needed to be), and the faith in our fellow team members (every single department on campus was involved) … all made this work. What a gift to the entire CSP community that even during challenging times it’s the personal relationships we have with each other that bring us through.”
The personal relationships that grew under the “adjustments” mandated by this year’s pandemic made the year special for so many.
“I love the relationships,” says Cathy, noting the one-on-one experiences gave her “relationship time, intimate time.”
Summing up this year’s holidays, Cathy turns to the Yiddish word for homey: “It’s haimish.”