Thursday, January 11, 2001

Seniors share time, knowledge with kids




By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When 19 senior citizens arrive for their weekly volunteer stint at Yavneh Day School, hugs and smiles are sure to follow.

        They are part of the school's Dor L'Dor (Generation to Generation) Program that brings Jewish elders from the community to the school on a regular basis. Each one is assigned to help in a classroom at the Kenwood school, which has 407 students in preschool through grade 8.

[photo] Volunteer Judith Slamouits of Golf Manor and Jesse Honigberg, 3, are reflected in a mirror as they play at the Yavneh Day School in Kenwood.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        “It's an extra pair of hands, somebody else to give hugs, a lap to sit on, somebody else to read stories,” said Sandy Kaltman, parent coordinator of Dor L'Dor. “With older children, it gives them a tutor or extra help.”

        The program has drawn national attention from the Ziv Tzedakah Fund Inc., a tax-exempt organization that allocates more than $500,000 annually to projects that “repair a damaged world.” It gave Yavneh $250 for the Dor L'Dor project last fall.

        The Cincinnati pro gram is “exceptional and inspiring,” Danny Siegel, chairman of the fund, wrote in The Ziv Report. “It's the best program of this kind that I have seen or heard of.”

        Yavneh is an independent, college preparatory school that affirms Jewish life and diversity. The PTA started Dor L'Dor last year to try to meet the needs it saw in the school and the community.

        “We saw seniors who had a lot of life experience and knowledge to share and had time on their hands, and children who may not have contact with people from that generation,” Ms. Kaltman said.

        Both generations benefit.

        The seniors, Ms. Kaltman said, contribute to the children's education, and they enjoy interacting with kids.

        Bernice Goodman volunteers in art and first-grade classrooms. “It's a wonderful way to spend a morning,” the 80-year-old Kenwood woman said. “It just raises your spirits to be with young children.”

        Mesel Wieder, a 91-year-old Roselawn man, can't get enough of Yavneh, where he volunteers in a third-grade classroom. “I like it here. I like the little children. I like the big children. I'd like to be here day and night. My life is changed when I come here. I learn more from the kids than they learn from me.”

        Many students don't live near their grandparents. Younger children often race with open arms to their volunteer safta, which is Hebrew for grandma. “It promotes a Jewish value of respect for the elderly,” Ms. Kaltman said.

        Last year, when Mr. Wieder volunteered for a fifth-grade class, the students threw him a birthday party.

        “It was so much fun to see how happy we made him,” said Sara Weil, 11, a sixth-grader from Amberley Village. The volunteers “seem like they are part of the class, and the differences in our years just seem to fade. I really liked learning about their life experiences, how life was for them when they were younger.”

        In turn, the seniors take their jobs seriously.

        Hannah Rosen, an 88-year-old retired Hebrew school teacher, helps in the fifth-grade Hebrew class. She even does homework.

        “I have to study,” the Mason woman said. “How else am I going to keep up with them?”

        Students can see she is a living witness to the history they're learning. When they hear about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., for example, she can tell them about watching civil rights marches in Selma on television. Living in a retirement village, she said, there aren't many people to talk with about these kinds of issues.

        “It's the best part of my life right now,” Mrs. Rosen said of the Dor L'Dor Program. “This rejuvenates me.”
       



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