By Katherine Tick

Living Our Jewish Values is an initiative we launched earlier this year to enrich the spiritual experience for residents and their families, staff, and volunteers, by aligning ourselves with the Jewish values that are the foundation of our organization. When we observe holidays and cultural moments of note while connecting them to the values that ground our work, not only are we activating Jewish life on campus but we also are creating a kind of ‘meeting place’ wherein all of us can expand our understanding of and appreciation for the universality of these ideas. Celebrating as a community within this space of shared understanding enriches the experience for everyone.

The overarching theme for the month of May was KAVOD, which translates to Honor. It was a month replete with opportunities to convey Honor to one another, as it was Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Jewish American Heritage Month, and included Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, and Memorial Day. The fifth commandment states ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ Certainly, our work on a daily basis is a deep commitment to the care of the fathers and mothers who live—and work—on our campus. We learn in the Torah that “in the presence of the elderly you shall rise, and you shall respect an elder…” In Judaism, we deeply value elders, seeing them as leaders and repositories of knowledge and wisdom. Honoring elders is perhaps the most fundamental of all the Jewish values guiding our mission at the San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living.

For Jewish American Heritage Month, we honored our forebears with learning more about the Jewish community in the original thirteen colonies. The first group of Jews in the colonies landed in Neue Amsterdam in 1654, just 23 Jews (mostly women and children). Did you know there are multiple documentaries, all beautifully researched, that shed light on this little-known yet highly impactful community? We also were fascinated by a documentary on the history of Jewish Summer camps; something that stood out to us was the multi-generations attending the same camps and how camp changed people’s lives, leading to career choices, marriages, and life-long commitment to Jewish camp experiences.

For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we learned about and paid tribute to some of the extraordinary leaders and change makers of Asian Pacific American descent in this country. We shared a live Zoom interview with Colleen Hanabusa, a prominent Hawaiian Democrat and labor lawyer who worked her way to the forefront of Democratic politics and served 12 years in the Hawaiian State Senate. Hanabusa was elected to the US House of Representatives in 2010 and then re- elected in 2016. We also held weekly film screenings which highlighted the plethora of contributions made by Asian Pacific Americans. We were fascinated by Spelling the Dream, a 2018 documentary exploring the world of competitive spelling bees which have been dominated by Indian Americans in recent times. In a feature about Vice President Kamala Harris Chase the Dream, we were able to learn in some detail about her journey to the White House.

As we are a multi-cultural community, we had a wonderful time honoring Cinco de Mayo, an important celebration for many in our community. Byer Square hosted a great fiesta and piñata contest in Osher Performance Center and then celebrated Carnival when performers visited Herbst Fitness Center to teach Samba to residents. The class donned traditional costumes and danced their hearts out.

Mother’s Day has always been a very special day here on campus. This year, Frank Residences opened Ozzie’s dining room to resident families for a lovely brunch, enabling us all to meet and hear testimonials from residents’ children. Brunch was followed by a champagne concert in Osher Performance Center, featuring a performance by composer Jeffrey Gaeto. In the Jewish Home & Rehab Center, everyone was presented with flowers.

The Butterfly Project

On May 17, we launched The Butterfly Project, an interactive art installation in the Goodman Lobby at the Jewish Home & Rehab Center. As our campus opens up after two years of pandemic restrictions, The Butterfly Project is a celebration of our reemergence. It honors emerging from Covid and from Passover into Shavuot and enables a joyful expression of self-honor for our residents. What started as an art project for Earth Day grew wings and took flight after residents created over 500 butterflies. Their enthusiasm for the theme and the project—as well as their prolific creativity—inspired everyone to embrace the opportunity to make a larger statement for our community. The launch party was a wonderful event and the installation provides an ongoing opportunity for engagement and photographs. Yes, our residents like taking selfies!

In June, we look forward to exploring the value of L’DOR va DOR, from Generation to Generation, by celebrating the many ways that cultural heritage, knowledge, and tradition can be passed from one generation to the next. We’ll spend time acknowledging and celebrating PRIDE month, the holiday of Shavuot (which commemorates Moses receiving the Ten Commandments), and Father’s Day.

It is because of our Jewish identity, not despite it, that we work to ensure a supportive and caring spiritual environment for all residents, patients, and their families regardless of their religion. Learn more about the ways you can support our Spiritual Life Program.