Shavout Reflection and Recipes

Shavuot/ May 16 (evening)-May 18 (evening), 2021

Passover begins the Jewish historical year cycle with our freedom from slavery in Egypt. Fifty days later Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost) celebrates God’s giving of the Ten Commandments (also seen as the entire Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew bible) to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai, At this time, we entered into a covenant, based on Divine law, that we observe and renew to this day, thus giving purpose to our freedom.

Shavuot began in the Bible as an agricultural pilgrimage festival (like Sukkot and Passover) but its significance is much greater.  Jewish tradition emphasizes the importance of everyone in every generation standing at Sinai, just as everyone of every generation relives the escape from slavery in Egypt at the Passover seder. One of the major traditions of Shavuot is that of all-night study (Tikkun Layl Shavuot), to provide each individual person direct access to Jewish from the Bible and other sources. We read the Biblical Book of Ruth at this time because Ruth, as a convert, entered into her own personal relationship with God and the Jewish people. In a similar way, many Liberal congregations hold Confirmation services for students who are approximately three years past their Bar/Bat Mitzvah,  reflecting ongoing commitment to Jewish learning.

Shavuot also is a time of great rejoicing, both in community in the synagogue and at home. Ashkenazi tradition includes the eating of dairy foods, such as blintzes and cheese cake, because the Torah is likened to milk and honey.  Sephardic communities have more elaborate Shavuot dishes many of which also involve cheese but in different forms such as special rice and cheese pies and Turkish-style rice pudding (sutlatch). 

 

A Blessing for Kindness on Shavuot, by Devon Spier 

Between those who have much and those who have little, let us sprinkle kindness like grain seeds.

And let our kindness burst forth like a bountiful harvest.

Growing, life-giving, and available to every single one who seeks nourishment from the field. 

And if we should find our self standing across from a stranger, or if we should happen to be a stranger in the company of one who is not, may we rise to meet the other with love in our hearts and the wholesomeness of good deeds.

And may our kindness sustain our selves and each other through this and every season of life.

Recipes:

Sutlach

Mediterranean Shavout Recipes

Traditional Shavout Foods

Beyond Blintz – A Culinary Tour of Shavout

MORE Shavout Recipes

 Please note that the JFCS offices will be closed in observance of the holiday on Monday, May 17 and Tuesday, May 18. 

Jewish Bereavement Virtual Support Group

Free, Six Week Group

Thursdays, March 4 – April 8 | 2:00 – 3:15 PM | Via Zoom

Following the death of a loved one, each of us moves in our own time and in our own way, through a process of grief, mourning and adjustment. But we do not have to grieve alone…

This is a weekly group in which members converse openly and support one another through the grief process. Open to any Jewish adult, regardless of affiliation, who has lost a loved one within the past 12 months.

Facilitated by Chaplain Beverly Rubman, MA

No fee to attend, registration required. To register, contact Beverly Rubman at beverlyr@jfcsonline.org / 609-987-8100 Ext 139.

Caregiving, COVID-19 and the Holidays

To all Caregivers…

In these difficult times of COVID-19, we all look to support each other and, particularly, to give extra attention to you who are taking care of your loved ones. Here is a helpful articles on how to have a Safe, Fun and Festive Holiday.  

Looking for support?

Are you a caregiver for your loved one with Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s or another chronic disease or illness? Our non-sectarian group provides tips, techniques and resources to help you live your life while supporting your loved one.

Caregiver Support Group

Tuesdays (6 Sessions) Beginning Jan 5, 2021 at 2:30 PM

Fee: $50, 6 sessions every other week

REGISTER NOW

A Special Prayer

CARETAKER’S PRAYER

Dear G-d, give me the strength to face this day,

To deal with the tension, anxiety and dizzying confusion of my life.

Teach me to focus, to prioritize, to see with clarity.

G-d of patience, teach me to be patient.

Forgiving G-d, teach me to forgive.

Bless me with the courage to face my loved one’s illness and pain, amidst my own fears.

Touch me with your spiritual light, your love, your wisdom

So that I can continue my task tomorrow, knowing that You are by my side.

Based on the writing of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, appearing in The Gentle Weapon: Prayers for Everyday and Not-So-Everyday Moments (Jewish Lights)

 

Beverly Rubman, Chaplain & Support Group Facilitator

Grieving in the Time of COVID-19

I went to a funeral last month for a 98 year-old mainstay of my synagogue who died of COVID. The immediate family, rabbi and cantor stood at graveside. I sat in my car, parked on the perimeter of the burial site, along with people in at least 25 other cars. We could not hear what was being said but we could say our own prayers and access our own memories. My husband played the Jewish memorial prayer—El Molei Rahamim—on his phone, and it set the appropriate somber tone. We reminisced about the deceased and said how pleased we were to see so many present under these very strange circumstances.

At the end of the service, we were allowed to go up to the grave, one at a time, to place shovels-full of dirt on the casket in accordance with tradition—if we wanted to do so. We were masked, standing 6 feet apart. We acknowledged each other with nods but did not speak. We hoped that the family would gain strength from our show of support. We gained strength from being together in this new, strange way because we shared our love, respect, and sense of rightness in being in the cemetery together.  Over the weekend, the synagogue held a Zoom memorial service that was attended by at least 100 people where stories were told and reminiscences shared.

This is grieving in the time of COVID.

We are already grieving the loss of a normal life. The loss of a loved one hits us even harder because the normal rituals of grieving are not available. As illustrated above, these difficult times call forth creativity and a search for new ways to come together to show respect, to grieve, and to share memories.

In these unusual and unprecedented times, I will share some of the wisdom I have gained as a chaplain leading bereavement groups for more than a decade and as a human being living with the grief of many in this time of COVID.  While my focus is on those who are grieving, I hope relatives and friends of the bereaved may also gain insight.

FEEL YOUR FEELINGS & BE KIND TO YOURSELF: Remember that there is no time limit on grief. Mourning the loss of a loved one is forever, but it also changes with time. There is no “right way” to grieve or “right timeline” for grief. Grieving does not happen in a straight line, it is experienced as waves that come and go.

In these surreal times of social isolation, it may be harder to accept the reality of the death of a loved one—that is normal. It also may not be possible to take time out for the mourning you want to do at this time, there are young children at home, or a job that demands all your energy and attention (this is particularly true for all front line responders, though everyone going out into the COVID world is living in a time of incredible stress), or you must attend to your own health or that of others.  Do what you have to do and do not be afraid that you are not grieving “properly.

HONOR THE MEMORY OF YOUR LOVED ONE: There are many ways to find the comfort that usually come from traditional funeral practices (shiva, viewings, etc.). Use Facetime, Skype and Zoom to connect with loved ones singly or in groups. Create memorials or electronic collages on Facebook or other platforms, these can continue indefinitely into the future. Plan a memorial for your loved one for the time when it will be possible to be together again. Pick up the telephone to call each other.  Send emails with pictures and stories. You don’t have to be technologically advanced to make the connections—just do whatever you can. A friend’s father died this past week of COVID. I did not know his father well but I would have attended the funeral, instead, I asked my friend if he would tell me stories about his father on the telephone.  He eagerly agreed. I plan to continue our phone conversations over the coming weeks and months.

CURRENT GRIEF BRINGS UP PAST GRIEF, REMEMBER YOUR PAST STRENGTHS: It is also normal to revisit many past losses while experiencing a fresh grief. This can be very painful, but it also can give you an opportunity to remember how you dealt with grief in the past—what helped you get through the unimaginable. One of my cousins is having flashbacks to her father’s death many years ago, she is using her COVID social isolation time to reach out to family members, share stories, and document family connections. The pain of loss is very fresh to her, but she also is finding new coping mechanisms that give her love and support.

STAY IN TOUCH: For the mourner, it may be hard to reach out and even harder to know what is wanted or needed. Friends and relatives may need to be more proactive than usual in making calls, sending cards, bringing or sending food, or offering any kind of comfort that is possible. It’s important to take action without being asked. This is another opportunity for creativity

SEEK PROFESSIONAL SUPPORT IF YOU ARE STRUGGLING: Connect one-on-one with a JFCS counselor for individualized support and tips during “Drop-In” Hours, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 10AM-12PM, Tuesday and Thursday 5 PM-7 PM. Call JFCS at 609-987-8100 and dial 0.

Beverly Rubman, Chaplain & Support Group Facilitator

Handling the Holidays in Time of Crisis When You Are Grieving

We are all dealing with grief now—loss of normalcy; loss of connection; fear of economic toll, nervous anticipation of the future. For those in our community who are mourning the loss of a loved one, the grief is intense and even more isolating because we do not have the traditional community supports to provide some sense of stability. As holiday times approach, the Empty Chair has become the Empty Table and the Empty Room. What are some tools that can give you the support you need?

A VERY IMPORTANT REMINDER:  Everyone experiences grief in his/her own way. There is no right or wrong. Give yourself permission to do whatever feels right, and please be gentle with yourself.

Suggestions for Handling the Holidays:

  • Nothing is normal for anyone this year. Think about what has helped you since the loss of your loved one; don’t do what you think you should but what feels right to you.
  •  Connect, connect, connect—to your friends, your family, your community (of faith or otherwise).  Take advantage of technology old and new:  telephone calls, email, text, Facetime, Skype or Zoom.  JFCS will provide resources for virtual Passover seders, as well as other services and celebrations, in a future post.
  • Tell your family and friends what you need, whether or not they ask. Don’t be shy—this is not a time for false reticence, you ARE strong but you still need others for support and help.
  • Think of rituals that have meaning for you and turn to them as often as necessary—these can relate to the holiday or not. There won’t be a big family meal this year (that would have raised other issues for you as you grieve), but you can make dishes that you love or that bring back happy memories. You can share recipes, perhaps using technology as you go about your preparations, or sing songs together or tell stories of holidays past. Or you can do none of the above.
  • Turn to prayers or readings from the holiday that have special meaning for you. Repeat them as often as needed for consolation.
  • Sing special songs relating to the holiday as you wash your hands (for 20 seconds). In fact, listen to or make music as much as you can. Music leads to activity in multiple parts of the brain where we process emotion, memory, awareness, and attention. It can help short-circuit sadness by using these brain areas to bring up happy emotions and joyful memories as we tune our attention to the song. We also know that music can bring strong emotions and heartfelt tears to the surface, which can help us process the complex emotions we are experiencing at this time.

NOTE:  Memories, with their sweetness and their pain, are important tools for healing. You know that your loved one will never be forgotten. Relationships don’t end with death but, with time, they will become transformed. And there is nothing wrong with crying.

  • Breathe.  Focus on all five of your senses, perhaps with particular reference to the upcoming holiday.  The sweet smell of a favorite food, the texture of special clothing, tablecloths or a reclining pillow, the sight or feeling of one small item related to the holiday that warms your heart, the clink of glasses of wine. Memories of holidays past will, of course, be painful without your loved one.   Try to access the positive ones.
  • This is the time for spring holidays, with their connection to nature. Go outside as much as possible, if you can. Savor the sights of flowering trees or plants. Smell the smell of fresh green grass. Move your weary muscles. Remember that we are all part of the cycle of life.

Beverly Rubman, Chaplain

November is National Caregivers Month and JFCS Has Answers!

November is National Family Caregivers Month. But for those of you who are caregivers, you know that EVERY DAY is a family caregiver day. Whether or not you live with your loved one, your responsibility for their care is 24/7, filling your heart, mind and time.

Caregiving can be a very isolating existence. You are so busy taking care of your loved one that you may not have time for yourself—to address your own health needs; to have some “down” time for relaxation, hobbies (hobby—what’s a hobby?) or visits with other family and friends; to talk about the difficulties that you encounter and the normal frustrations that you feel. But the stark reality is that, if you do not take care of yourself, you may not be around to care for your loved one!

Support groups can provide a critical shoulder to caregivers, diminishing the isolation and allowing the caregiver to know that he/she is not alone. At JFCS, we have extensive experience with caregiver support and facilitate a wide number of support groups throughout the year.

Many of our participants attest to the value they experience in being together as a group member:

“I am not alone, other people feel the same things I do. I actually have a lot to contribute.”

“Most helpful has been simply sharing stories, worries, concerns, laughter with each other. The caring community itself is a stress reducer.”

“Camaraderie!”

“One doesn’t have to go through ‘trauma’ alone.”

“We identified with each other and really came to care for each other.”

I learned to “honor my feelings.”

“Honesty, directions, aid in resources…people, caring, support.”

“Hugs.”

We also understand how difficult it can be for caregivers to leave their homes and loved ones to attend a group. JFCS is excited to announce the launching of a new program to create an online video support group, employing 21st century technology to address the time-old need for connection, support and validation. All you need is a laptop with video capability and you can interact with a group on your screen in your own home with complete confidentiality and privacy.

If you are interested in the online video group or any of our other support group programs, please contact Beverly Rubman at beverlyr@jfcsonline.org or call 609-987-8100.