By Leon A Smith
January 5, 2012
Is it me – or are Jewish holidays coming around with increasing frequency? And/or indeed are holidays in general coming around with increasing frequency? As soon as Chanukah finished we have had New Year (Shana Tova to my readers) and now in January here at Nightingale we need to start turning our attention to Pesach. I can’t remember whether Pesach is early or late this year – certainly it’s one or the other. Whichever it is, we need to start thinking about it. At Nightingale the logistical arrangements for this Festival are – to put it mildly, extensive. Not only do we need to plan logistically for a massive changeover operation in some 9 dining areas we also need to enlist the support of a wide group of friends in order to assist us with the running of the Sederim – of which there are at least 7 held simultaneously!
Other than Passover of course we have to start thinking about other Festivals coming in the interim – including Tu Bishvat (which requires very little preparation other than the purchase of a tree and the organisation of a party) and of course Purim. As with Chanukah, Purim is a Festival which is very child orientated. One of the difficulties that we have at Nightingale is that we don’t have any children living here! We do have a lot of older people whose average age is 90 and 13 of whom are aged over 100. In order to engender as much of a Purim festive atmosphere as possible, we will I am sure be bringing in groups of young children and organising parties and other entertainments for our residents around this time. And wherever possible we will involve our staff in this very upbeat and joyous Festival.
As indicated previously not all residents who come to live at Nightingale are necessarily Orthodox and/or have any interest in all of the Festivals. But nevertheless we endeavour to try our best to make all of our celebrations as inclusive as possible. The important thing is that we recognise that any of our residents have the right, should they so wish, not to participate. There is no element whatsoever of compulsion to do so.
It’s interesting nevertheless that a significant number of our residents who have not perhaps attended synagogue regularly or at all have chosen to do so here at Nightingale. We recognise that this is much to do with the following of our charismatic Religious Coordinator, Rafi Fuchs – many of our residents attend synagogue simply because of him! Whatever the reason, this has to be good news. Attending synagogue at Nightingale is both an enjoyable experience as well as providing a reminiscence experience. Many residents will of course have been exposed to synagogue attendance and religious services in their lives – even if they may not have done so in more recent years or as adults.
One common denominator at Nightingale is that everybody is Jewish regardless of their level of adherence and/or believe. Being Jewish is the one (and perhaps only) common denominator. Everybody who comes to live here has made a positive decision that they wish to live in a Jewish environment surrounded by other Jewish people. Albeit for some, in the words of Jackie Mason – they may find it “too Jewish”! As mentioned above, there is no compulsion on anybody. The only ground rules that we have is that we ask our residents and their families not to bring food into our building in order to preserve our high standards of Kashrut.
One of the very very few disadvantages of living a Jewish life in South London is the limited access to Jewish deli items – for which a Sunday morning schlep to Golders Green Road is sometimes necessary. Petrol costs could be reduced significantly if some brave business man were to identify a gap in the market in South London for the establishment of a Kosher Jewish deli. In the meantime we do of course have this facility at Nightingale and I would be pleased for any members of the local community to come in and purchase items here. However, it would be very nice to have another option somewhere South of the River.
May I take this opportunity of wishing all of my readers Shana Tova – and albeit a little early a very happy Tu Bishvat!