JFS and JCC Partner for Pilot ‘Mazel J Café’

A group of Jewish older adults, and some of their caregivers, gathered in the JCC Board Room on April 18 for the first session of a six-week pilot program.

The “Mazel J Café” began with chair exercises to “old-time” music like “The Lindy” and “Lollipop.” Then the group enjoyed cookies and a talk on Jewish gangsters with Cooky Notis and a session with Rabbi Seth Phillips. 

“There was really a lot of laughter, a lot of interaction,” said Sharon Gayner, who is coordinating the program for Jewish Family Service of the Lehigh Valley.“

The role was a natural extension for Gayner, who began working at JFS as the food pantry coordinator this year. She holds a degree in family community service from Syracuse University and a certificate in gerontology. 

Gayner is partnering with Amy Sams, adult programming coordinator at the Jewish Community Center of the Lehigh Valley, to run the program.

“This is definitely a ‘mission critical’ area in older adult services,” Sams said. “We are glad to be able to host it at the JCC.”

The pilot is funded by a community impact grant from the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley.

The idea for the program was to bring together older adults who may not get out of the house much and could use some socialization. It is also intended to provide caregivers with a little respite, though several stayed for the first session and found it quite enjoyable, Gayner and Sams said.

For the pilot, the nine participants were hand-picked by JFS, but the hope is to advertise and open the program to the public next time.

The participants will be asked to complete surveys at the end of each session, and their feedback will help shape future iterations of the café. 

In the upcoming weeks, this group will enjoy additional activities including writing workshops, dog therapy and a drumming circle. 

“No matter what’s going on, people really need to get out and live and see other people,” Gayner said. “It’s already been such a wonderful experience, and we look forward to seeing what the future holds.

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