When the seniors at Beth Sholom Village and the teens at Ohef Sholom Temple met for the first time last year at an Oneg Shabbat, there were jitters on both sides.
But when the two groups came together a few weeks ago for their end-of-year banquet, those jitters were gone.
Through Better Together, the teens and seniors formed relationships that left both sides smiling and with happy memories.
The banquet, held at Ohef Sholom Temple on May 7, brought together the teens, seniors, and their families for a celebration of the year’s accomplishments.
Better Together is a program that connects teens and seniors through monthly lunch-and-learn sessions and programming centered around building common bonds. Both the seniors and teens agreed that they had more in common than they initially thought.
Activities included learning how the seniors get the news, the teens teaching about Facebook and Snapchat, discussing difficult situations, making an embroidery for Passover, and cards for Valentine’s Day, constructing terrariums, and playing board games and dreidel.
The teens learned that they had a lot to gain from the older generation and the seniors were amazed at the skills the teens used with technology.
Another valuable lesson the teens walked away with is that life is short. Over the course of the year, two Better Together seniors passed away. Kari Levi, one of the students, says, “Marjorie’s death taught me that life is fleeting and that we should enjoy all the special moments together when we can, while we can. If I can bring happiness to these seniors and learn from them, then I feel I am doing a true mitzvah.”
Each teen was required to write an essay about their experiences in Better Together.
“Going into this program it hadn’t occurred to me the many lessons and values I’d be taking away from these meetings,” says Katelynn McAraw. “Our Sunday lunches weren’t just fun dates filled with food and laughter, they were days where we didn’t have to stress about obligations and what was going on in the world, whether it was figuring out how to work social media, discussing the difference between our generations or reminiscing of our fondest memories. We made Better Together a safe place where everyone was welcome. Regardless of the age gap, we always found a way to relate to each others’ experiences.”
“For many of the seniors in our group, family plays an important role in their lives,” says Hailey Foer. “Listening to them reflect on this has lead me to cherish every minute with my parents and grandparents even more so than ever before. I now place a greater value on the things I get to do with my grandparents.”
At the concluding luncheon, Katelynn McAraw read her award-winning essay. Her piece competed against other Better Together participants from around the country for a scholarship. Though she wasn’t a national winner, she did win a scholarship for a semester in Israel.
For more information about Better Together, contact Leslie Shroyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Robyn Weiner and Leslie Shroyer