Reaching those who shut out the world

Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh received a B.A. from Skidmore College and was ordained as a Rabbi from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She is fortunate to be involved in so many facets of the community including serving as the chaplain for JF&CS and an instructor for CAJE. This will be her fifth year serving as the visiting Rabbi in Decatur, Ill. She has also served congregations in both Sydney and Perth, Australia. When not writing her weekly BLOGS, she can be found running marathons.


Everyone was in such a good mood today. It is Monday, yet, people were smiling and friendly. No doubt, it was because the weather was so comfortable. It has been a challenging summer. Going for stretches like we did with the thermostat reading over 100 was really tough. I blamed the weather for my lethargic feelings and general lack of energy. It was too hot.

Today I walked into a facility and saw a dozen or more residents sitting outside enjoying fresh air and sunshine without the risk of the heat. People were smiling and laughing.

Except for one gentleman I know who refuses to leave his room. With the exceptions of meals, he sits in a dark room all day. Sometimes the television is on for background noise. It does not matter though. I never think he is even watching it.

Today one of our volunteers from JF&CS spoke to him about getting out a couple of times a day. By the end of the visit, the resident had given his word he would wheel himself around and even venture outside. Taking this conversation one step farther, the volunteer asked the resident about coming to the erev Rosh Hashanah service he would be conducting. It took some back and forth discussion about the importance of community but as the volunteer was leaving, the resident asked if he could borrow a yarmulke.

As I listened to the story I had tears in my eyes. We all need someone who cares, someone who expects us to be at a certain place at a particular time. We all need to know we matter. We all need to know we will be missed if we do not leave the room.