Sweeter together, coming out of the darkness: Caring Connections resumes in-person events

By Stacey Spencer • Jewish Inclusion Program Manager

JFCS Caring Connections program for Jewish adults with disabilities, along with our other JFCS programs, successfully pivoted programming from in-person events pre-pandemic to virtual events during the pandemic. In fact, I will go further to say we have learned many things during the pandemic that will influence our programming going forward. Caring Connections’ virtual events have been remarkable, but let’s face it, there is nothing like gathering live and 3D in-person versus 2D on Zoom!

Moving to in-person events was not a decision made lightly. There was a lot of thought that went into the safety and well-being of everyone, with safety protocols and COVID-mitigation strategies in place. So, after being physically apart for over 18 months, Caring Connections recently came back together for an amazing reunion! More than 35 Caring Connections members, their families, friends, support staff and volunteers gathered for an afternoon of learning and challah baking with Rabbi Davis of Beth El Synagogue.

The event was so heartwarming, interactive, and engaging. Rabbi Davis led a hands-on challah braiding demonstration, D’var Torah and discussion about why we eat a round braided challah for the High Holidays. While the challah dough was rising and baking, we gathered outdoors for a special ice cream treat, lively Jewish songs, and more uplifting stories and learning from Rabbi Davis. With the challah hot and fresh out of the oven, everyone tasted a piece, and enjoyed saying the Hamotzi (blessing over the bread) together.

The challah was delicious, but it was the act of being together that was so meaningful. Caring Connections members were excited, and some even emotional, when they finally were able to interact with each other in person – something that has not been possible for so long. One participant said he had been feeling so lonely and isolated – it felt so good to reunite with some of his closest friends in person and to celebrate the High Holidays in such a meaningful and interactive way. I could tell from his excitement and demeanor how fulfilled he was – not to mention how happy he was taking home a fresh baked Challah to enjoy!

It wasn’t just participants who were moved by the experience; the event held meaning for the volunteers as well: 

“I really enjoyed volunteering for this event! I loved seeing the participants so happy to see each other and they really seemed to enjoy making the challah and enjoying the entire event. They all seem so bonded and so respectful of one another. I loved hearing Rabbi Davis talk and all of the participants really appeared to enjoy hearing him speak as well. I would definitely volunteer at another one of these events!”

The Jewish High Holidays are a time of reflection, as we move into another new year with hope for sweetness and good health in the coming year. Caring Connections is embracing the new year with new possibilities for a blend of in-person and virtual programming. After all, like dipping the apples in honey for Rosh Hashanah, it is sheer sweetness and blessing to gathering in person.

If you know anyone that would be interested in more information about joining Caring Connections, or if you are interested in volunteering at an upcoming Caring Connections event, please contact me at sspencer@jfcsmpls.org or 952-542-4845.