Holocaust survivors in the Valley will have new opportunities to express themselves emotionally and artistically thanks to an emerging curriculum from Jewish Family & Children’s Service.
The JFCS recently launched the Kibbitz & Kultur program as a way to engage survivors and their families in the creative arts in a stimulating and friendly environment. Each session will feature a different interactive genre of art.
“As you know, this population is getting older and some of them are getting a little more frail, but some are still very robust,” said JFCS Senior Concierge-Creative Aging Coordinator Janet Arnold Rees. “We just want to make sure that we keep both their minds and bodies engaged, so this is a great opportunity for that.”
Each Kibbitz & Kultur event is free for Holocaust survivors and their spouses. Second and third generations are welcome to attend for $10, or two for $18.
The quarterly program’s first activity was on June 13 at the Beth El Congregation. Joe Bousard, the vocal director of the Musical Theatre of Anthem, led a sing-along performance with kosher pizza and ice cream. More than 30 survivors and their families attended.
Aside from the social benefits for those who attend, the program also allows the Valley nonprofit to provide continual outreach to the survivor community.
“The idea is not only to create a social environment for them, but also to create a bridge to our services,” said Kathy Rood, Jewish social services manager for JFCS. “So if any survivor has an unforeseen need, they will have a way to come to us and we can look into trying to get those needs met.”
The second Kibbitz & Kultur event will take place on Thursday, Sept. 12, at Beth El at noon. The two-hour event will include lunch and a program of movement and dance led by dance teacher and aging services expert Michelle Dionisio, who will lead a traditional Balkan hora, a circle dance similar to the Israeli hora. Dionisio is committed to making sure there is an appropriate skill level for each dancer, regardless of ability.
“We’re thankful to Beth El for allowing us to use their space and are thrilled to have Michelle with us,” Rood said. “I first saw Michelle work her magic with a group of older adults two years ago, and we‘ve used her for many of our programs since. She has such an engaging personality and a kind and gentle way of encouraging everyone to participate. And toe tappers are always welcome as well.”
Dionisio has led the JFCS’ Memory Café, which offers those with memory loss, mild cognitive impairment or dementia an opportunity to come together, socialize and engage in a variety of activities built around a monthly theme. In many ways, it’s a lot like Kibbitz & Kultur, emphasizing engagement and fun.
Implementing the Kibbitz & Kultur program was rewarding for those who worked on it.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity and we’re so glad that we can present it to everyone,” Rees said. “This is a very special population and we want to be at the forefront of providing them care.”
Future Kibbitz & Kultur events are planned for December 2019 and March 2020. Funding for this program is from the Legacy Heritage Fund with additional assistance from the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix. JN
RSVPs for Kibbitz & Kultur are required and can be made by
contacting Kathy Rood at 602-452-4627 or firstname.lastname@example.org.