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Jewish Seniors and the Passover Feast

  
  
  

passoverToday, 14 million people identify themselves as Jewish, with approximately 40% of these individuals residing in the United States.  As with all different cultures and religions, the rapidly changing demographics of the aging population with the added challenges of chronic illnesses, spiritual needs and understanding of their culture are of great importance.  Today’s Jewish elders, their families and caregivers are searching for meaning, purpose and community within their Jewish traditions.

What better way to provide Jewish seniors with the essence of the traditions than by commemorating the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt with the eight day festival of Passover.  The name “Passover” comes from the Exodus story in the bible.  The Israelites were instructed to smear the blood of a sacrificial lamb on their doorposts so the plague of death inflicted on the firstborn Egyptians would pass over their homes.  This year the festival is celebrated from Monday, March 25 - Tuesday, April 2, 2013.

The highlight of Passover is the Seder, observed on each of the first two nights of the holiday. The following explanation of a detailed Seder meal comes from the Chabad.org

The Seder is a fifteen-step family-oriented tradition and ritual-packed feast.

The focal points of the Seder are:

  • Eating matzah.
  • Eating bitter herbs-to commemorate the bitter slavery endured by the Israelites.
  • Drinking four cups of wine or grape juice-a royal drink to celebrate our newfound freedom.
  • The recitation of the Haggadah, a liturgy that describes in detail the story of the Exodus from Egypt. The Haggadah is the fulfillment of the biblical obligation to recount to our children the story of the Exodus on the night of Passover.
If you are a caregiver for a Jewish senior – perhaps in a nursing home, hospital or hospice – it may be difficult to understand or be familiar with Jewish customs and traditions, especially if they are different from your own.  mmLearn.org provides a free online series – Cultural Sensitivity Training for Caregivers Serving Jewish Seniors – consisting of five modules.  Each module focuses on a particular facet of the Jewish Culture and each is under 20 minutes.  Module II provides an overview of some of the most important holy days and holidays that are part of the Jewish culture.  Commemorating these events is an important aspect of caring for the whole person.

The mission of mmLearn.org is to provide caregivers with online training and education that improve the quality of care received by older adults.

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