Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, smart phones and iPads—this is all technology that has been introduced in the last 15 years: like it was not enough for the seniors with no experience of computers at all to learn it. It was a project initiated by Gail Zigler four years ago that has helped to bring technology to our brains and lives. What a blessing to all of us! It is impossible to imagine our everyday life now without these virtual meetings via Skype (another new technology).
2020 brought Pandemic, Covid-19, social distancing. I don’t know how our lives would turn out without this iPads and technology program. To our great surprise, 85 seniors, even the very skeptical ones, were able to succeed with the curriculum and participate in activities that involved so much effort of volunteers under the leadership of Elena Itenberg.
At the very beginning of the stay-at-home order, in the middle of April, the JFS Center for Holocaust Survivors initiated a Senior Conversation group via Skype where the seniors could virtually communicate and discuss things that were on their minds. No doubt the iPads and training came in so handy. The group of twenty seniors now meet via Skype every Friday. The participants have a lot of ideas for topics to be discussed. They range from books, movies, both Jewish and American holidays, food, famous names, and writers. With great pleasure we meet every week to discuss these things.
Out of many topics my favorites are the ones that involve a lot of discussions. We argue, listen to each other’s opinions and sometimes agree (not always the case when there are three Jews or more). Our members include both Cincinnatians and people from out of Cincinnati and even out of Ohio. Everyone brings their individuality to the table during the meetings.
For example, during one of the meetings, we discussed a movie we have all watched before. Initially, I didn’t like the movie at all, especially the main character because of her gloomy approach to life. It is not my way of life. I still disagree with the way she lives, but after a very detailed analysis of her behavior and surroundings by experts in the group, I understood why these kind of characters act in this way. Again not me.
We went on a virtual tours of the Gorham Silver exhibition at the Cincinnati Art Museum and Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park to see 60+ monumental outdoor sculptures. A couple of times we had guest speakers on Russian poetry and modern art. During this time I learned so much not only in different areas of life, but about the participants.
The group enjoyed many presentations on American history, people and values, such as why certain streets in America are named after Adams and Madison. Who was Hamilton in the American history? Why has a play about him sold out hundreds of theaters across the country?
Once, during a rather long flight, I came across the Documentary: The Foods that built America. The documentary was so fascinating that I asked participants if they would like to know more about Hershey, Kellogg, McDonald, Heinz, KFC. I researched and talked about Hershey, a very interesting man. As the presenter, I found interesting videos about Hershey’s story and Elena brought my presentation to the screen so everyone could enjoy the material. Actually, some people had visited Hershey Chocolate factory and the city, but nobody knew about Hershey’s wonderful school initiative that I liked. While I was getting ready for this presentation, I learned so much about what it takes to make the Hershey chocolate bar that we take for granted and what it means for so many people who found their jobs, housing, and schools in the Hershey city, surrounded by fields and farmers who also are a big part of this Hershey chocolate bar loved by so many.
In today’s life you can’t exist without knowing what is going on in the political arena. The very last meeting we have chosen to discuss the upcoming presidential election and the American style of government. We asked one of our presenters to highlight the uniqueness of the American electoral system. We also use our Skype line to provide additional information.
Sometimes we share the names of the books, movies, and unique recipes of our favorite food on our Skype line.
During these uncertain times, the goal is to raise our spirit, give us something positive to think of and learn something new.
Keeping this in mind, our future presenters will broaden our horizons by coming from Munich and Jerusalem. They are my late husband’s two best friends. One is scheduled to talk about a very famous Jewish singer: Michael Alexandrovich. My friend had the opportunity to interview him in Munich many years ago. Our guest will be on Skype with us on October 23.
The second presenter from Israel is a writer and historian who publishes his own almanac called Mezuzah. The group learned about his biography and his outstanding research in history, Jazz, literature and Jewish anecdotes in September. We are hoping to meet via Skype with him in the near future. He thinks the topic 140 years of Immigration to Israel would be very timely.
The Senior Conversational Group has been a great project loved so much by so many. We hope to continue to meet and have fun together in the future and have new members join.