JCHE: non-sectarian housing with a haimish flavor
As I toured all the JCHE sites my first weeks, the convergence of the Jewish New Year and me beginning my tenure here filled me with a sense of awe. It’s amazing how much our actions can impact others and the power to do so positively is incredible.
I asked myself, what does it mean that we have “non-sectarian housing that is informed by Jewish values and traditions?” (a theme to which I will return in future blogs) and I learned that JCHE is truly creating an optimum social and cultural environment for older adults of all backgrounds by:
• embracing multi-culturalism completely and creating a welcoming and respectful environment for everyone. We openly embrace the various heritages and consciously welcome everyone to the table;
• fostering an environment for all that I could only describe as “haimish”.
The dictionary defines “haimish” as: having qualities associated with a homelike atmosphere; simple, warm, relaxed, cozy, unpretentious, etc. JCHE housing exudes this warmth—no one is an anonymous dweller in an apartment house, but rather a welcome member of the community.
To me, haimish is the essence of what I think of when I think of a “Jewish-inspired environment that is welcoming to people from all cultures” since it transcends the personal and professional, the observant and the secular, the local roots and the distant lands from which we hail. We celebrate each other and each other’s holidays and traditions—be they the Chinese moon festival or the matrushka doll collection from a Russian family or the Jewish New Year—nurturing authentic community.
There are so many ways to illustrate how we go out of our way to be “culturally competent” and fully welcoming. We are in the process of building a new program center on our Brighton site. The auditorium will have the capability to allow speakers of Russian or Chinese to put on headphones and hear the speaker simultaneously translated into their native language—facilitating “real time” participation by our residents.
There are an array of actions and attitudes that contribute to the sense of a welcoming community. I’m proud that Ulin, Leventhal, Genesis, Golda and Coleman all feel haimish. Soon Shillman will too.
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