In addition to the “senior rides” program to which the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix has allocated $58,000 (“$58K allocated to ‘senior rides,’” Jewish News, April 1), the federation has allocated $6,000 to the Bureau of Jewish Education to start the “Wise Aging” program.

Both programs mark new spending in the 2016 allocations toward senior programs, considered a core impact area – along with NowGen, programs for young Jewish adults, and Israel Advocacy, programs aimed at advocating for Israel among students – for allocations, said Barry Markson, chair of the federation’s Community Planning Commission, which develops and recommends the annual allocation plan to the federation’s board.

“Wise Aging: Living With Joy, Resilience and Spirit” is a 2015 book written by Rabbi Rachel Cowan and Dr. Linda Thal, which is intended to serve as a guidebook for the Wise Aging programs of the New York City-based Institute for Jewish Spirituality. Wise Aging was piloted in 2012 at Manhattan’s Central Synagogue.

Markson said that the federation sought to bring the idea to the Valley and “we went to the BJE and they’re going to operate it for us.”

“We’re going to bring in people who are going to coach people who want be facilitators, and they’re going to go out and start programs of 10, 12, 15, 20 seniors to talk about a lot of issues that face seniors from health to relationships,” he said.

He described the allocation as “seed money” to provide the training and thus provide the ability to replicate it in multiple settings in the Valley.

A 2013 article on Forward.com said, “Unlike much of the communal programming geared toward those older than 60, Wise Aging isn’t about keeping seniors busy with cultural activities or continuing education. Instead, it’s about doing reflective work and preparing oneself for late life, when there is greater frailty and greater loss.”

Markson offered an example of the types of issues these Wise Aging groups might address.

“Sometimes in families, people will  have arguments with a family member – a sister, a brother, a cousin – and stop talking to them. How do you face that after it’s been 20 or 25 years and now you’re 65 or 70 years old and you haven’t talked to your sister for 25 years? The facilitator will work in discussions and other practices with the people who are in this group” to help deal with such issues.

He suggested that the groups that newly trained facilitators in the Valley develop would meet on their own schedules and thus provide socialization opportunities for seniors, as well.

“Now, hopefully, you have a group of people that become your friends and you’re doing other (socializing),” he said. “So it’s trying to have programs for seniors in the community to come out and see one another and talk and be part of the community.”

Other allocations for the Seniors core impact area include $38,000 to continue the senior concierge information and referral program administered by Jewish Family & Children’s Service; $13,500 to Chabad’s Smile on Seniors socialization program; and $5,000 to religious services at Kivel Campus of Care.

There is no new program funded in the Israel Advocacy category, although the federation did allocate $50,000 to continue the Hillel and JAC (Jewish Arizonans on Campus) Israel Advocacy program at Arizona State University.

Under NowGen funding, the Jewish Free Loan has been allocated $10,000 to start a NowGen Fund “to provide loans for younger Jewish people,” Markson said.

“It can be for anything from some assistance with student loans to other loans that young people may need,” he said. “The federation is very excited to be partnering with Jewish Free Loan, which we think is one of the exemplary organizations in the community.”

Other NowGen allocations are $5,000 to the Jewish Genetic Diseases Center of Greater Phoenix for Jewish genetics diseases screenings; $25,000 to Moishe House Phoenix, a peer-led group that provides Jewish experiences; $5,000 to Chabad’s Friendship Circle to support its Young Adult Circle, for those with special needs; and $500 to the Swift Youth Foundation, which offers programming for at-risk youth and was presented with this year’s Belle Latchman Community Service Award at the federation’s kickoff event on March 9.  

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