Annette Schwartzman, a retired attorney, said there’s a lot that’s good in her Grandparents Chavurah, which is co-organized by Mequon Jewish Preschool and Ovation Communities.
Ovation Communities is a local Jewish faith-based organization, offering a continuum of senior living and care options. Mequon Jewish Preschool and Ovation Communities have combined efforts to help grandparents with family ties to the school navigate the challenges of aging and the joys of cultural enrichment.
Thus, the two organizations have held six virtual gatherings together since January, which have become known as the Grandparents Chavurah. Twenty-two grandparents have been exposed to ways to cope with anxiety, fear, stress and isolation due to the pandemic, said Dana Rubin-Winkelman, an Ovation social worker who is online with the grandparents. Brain health and memory improvement are part of the Grandparents Chavurah.
“It’s a lot of good information that’s useful,” said Schwartzman, who has grandchildren who went to Mequon Jewish Preschool. “Depression and anxiety are not good for your brain cells. They tell you things like that.”
“We are working to provide meaningful and creative interactive workshops,” Rubin-Winkelman said.
The Grandparents Chavurah is also a way to stay connected to the preschool community. “On my visits to Milwaukee, we would take the kids to school and pick them up,” Schwartzman said. “We’d hang around other parents, waiting for their kids. We just felt so welcome and part of the community.”
Many participants are local, but Schwartzman participates from Long Island. Some group members have school connections dating back 20 years and, like Schwartzman, live all over the country.
Robyn Eiseman, director of outreach and engagement for Mequon Jewish Preschool, and Rivkie Spalter, pre-school director, have sent out gift packages to chavurah members. They received a Purim gift basket for the holiday and a care package for Passover, including matzah covers made by the schoolchildren.
The Grandparents Chavurah has funding from the Milwaukee Jewish Federation that is earmarked for virtual social service work during COVID.
Spalter starts every Zoom meeting with a d’var Torah. “It’s some Jewish learning that’s connected to whatever we’re working on and to current events,” she said. “It’s very joyful, interactive and very bonding. We’re seeing the beauty in each participant and bringing that out. It’s just turned out to be a wonderful thing.”
The next two-part workshop in May will explore how grandparents can leave a legacy. The presenter is physician Dr. David Moss. One program was Treasures of the Jewish Museum in conjunction with Jewish Museum Milwaukee. The seniors also participated in an art and music program.
“The idea is to create a community of grandparents and to be able to give nurture and care,” Spalter said.
The program may evolve. “The end goal is to do intergenerational programming with the children once COVID lets up,” Eiseman said.
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- Brain health and memory improvement
- May workshop is on leaving a legacy