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A Culture of YES

Posted: June 5, 2012

This was a week where a lot of themes converged.  The catalyst was Barry Berman, Director of the Chelsea Jewish Foundation, the person in this field whom I most admire and respect.  He is the ultimate mensch—defined by Wikipedia as “a person of integrity and honor, someone of noble character. The key to being 'a real mensch' is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous.”   And then it shows Barry’s picture.  Meeting Barry years ago was the motivation for me to decide to make an impact in this field.  But I digress………………….

Barry spoke at an event, organized by the very brilliant Barbara Friedman (our recently-retired-but-always-influential director of intergenerational programs) to link young people interested in the field of aging with those of us who have substantial experience.  Barry and his wonderful son Adam showed a video of a time they took the residents of their nursing home, who are suffering from ALS or MS, skydiving (strapped to experienced instructors, of course).  It was remarkable.

In addition to just simply being marvelous to see people literally fly who are otherwise trapped in their bodies, it reminded me of my trip to the Netherlands a month or so ago, where I was so impressed with Humanitas and their “culture of yes”.  It doesn’t translate very well, but Humanitas says they have “a tradition of 'very much is possible’ and ‘try everything and keep the good'”—as it was explained to me, anything any resident wishes to do should be supported.  Hans Becker, the director of Humanitas, would have said “yes” to skydiving, as improbable as it might seem at first blush.  Both Hans and Barry push us all to expand our views of what is possible and thus expand the good in the world.

And then Barry allowed me to tour him through our Brighton campus.  Repeatedly throughout the tour he noted that the buildings and grounds are very well maintained.  Hearing his respect for our maintenance team brought me back to my very first days at JCHE—and the first blog entry I wrote about our maintenance team, focusing on how you can tell a lot about a place by looking at the boiler room—ours are impressive.  No matter what leaps we take with programs, the quality of care we seek is not possible without a maintenance crew that excels at their work.  The “yes” culture must be all-inclusive!

JCHE is fortunate to have a talented team at all sites and departments and to be in a metropolitan area with sister organizations that can inspire us.  YES!



Watch the skydiving adventure in this wonderful video

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