Resort facilities

Retirement homes seek to return to normal Passover | Akron

Northeast Ohio Senior Citizens Residences plan to offer residents a more normal observance of Passover this year despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Rabbi Akiva Feinstein, director of spiritual life at Menorah Park in Beachwood; Kelly Jo Hinrichs, vice president of marketing for Resort Lifestyle Communities in Hudson; and Steve Rachilson, creator of the Jewish Life program at Vitalia Active Adult Community in Montrose in Copley, said their respective facilities will offer various Passover activities.

For the past two years, Menorah Park has relied on virtual and small-group activities for Passover, Feinstein said. This year, residents can attend a larger concert with masks and social distancing as well as smaller communal seders in their lodges. On the last day of Passover, there will be a service at the synagogue.

It’s wonderful to be able to give seniors a more normal experience, Feinstein said. As Passover is often a social and family holiday, it’s something residents have missed during the pandemic.

“I think the residents themselves miss their families,” he said. “They miss the socialization between their fellow citizens. So we hope we can eat and sing and be happy together in a group that is so amazing.

Rapidly changing COVID guidelines are impacting how the festivities will be handled, Feinstein said. Effective immediately, residents’ families will not be invited to the seder, but may visit during the week to celebrate and participate in entertainment activities.

“We are very careful because these are significant health issues and we want to protect our residents,” he said, “But we are also acutely aware that the spiritual and social opportunities our people have missed are so important. So whenever we can accommodate them and it’s safe and appropriate, we really want that.

Each property under the Resort Lifestyle Communities umbrella will handle Passover slightly differently, Hinrichs said. In general, establishments such as Hudson Meadows Retirement Community will provide meals throughout Passover and tell the Passover story in their theater. Some facilities will offer spring cleaning and Passover desserts to their residents.

Sharing the Passover story could be informative for residents who aren’t as familiar with the traditions, Hinrichs said.

“It’s really cool to see collaboration and sharing of information as our elders get older,” she said.

COVID protocol varies by location, Hinrichs said. Each facility will follow state and local guidelines when celebrating Passover. These guidelines may also affect whether family can be involved in the celebrations.

While Passover gives residents a specific reason to celebrate, seniors should celebrate every day, Hinrichs said.

“They lifted up the generations behind them and we owe it to them to be sure they spend their time with love, compassion and openness,” she said.

Vitalia Active Adult Community will handle Passover the same as last year, Rachilson said. Since many residents are spending Passover with their families, the events will take place on April 13.

Residents of the Montrose facility will be transported by car to the Solon site for the program, he said. Participants will discuss the history of Passover as well as the significance of the holiday.

Rachilson said his favorite part of the event was hearing residents talk about their memories of seders from years ago.

“It’s remarkable how people talk about seders from the past and people listen to those stories and then they tell [their] stories,” he said.

Residents can also have an eight-day supply of matzah for the actual Passover days, Rachilson said.

These celebrations will be held under the same COVID protocol as Vitalia’s Shabbat services, he said. These guidelines include social distancing in a large room with optional masks. Like last year, families are not invited to these gatherings due to the pandemic.

Passover celebrations give residents a sense of community and identity, Rachilson said.

“It’s very important for Jewish residents who live in the same buildings to really express their own religious pride by having their own vacations,” he said. “Vitalia has done a tremendous job encouraging Jewish cultural and religious expression in its buildings.”

Madisyn Woodring is a freelance writer.