JFS keeps connection with Tikvah House strong throughout pandemic

Jewish Family Service is in its second year of a partnership with Tikvah House to bring monthly Jewish Life Programming to its residents, Ally, Becky and Adam.

Since July 2020, JFS has played an instrumental role in broadening community engagement, the celebration of holidays and educating residents on their connection  to Israel.  

With the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic and the inability to gather together in person, JFS Volunteer Coordinator Chelsea Karp and Lehigh Valley Shaliach Gavriel Siman-Tov have found creative ways to continue programming and enrich the lives of Tikvah House residents.  

Warm weather makes it easy to have programs outside, like the day Gavriel talked about the meaning of a Hebrew name and the way a Hebrew name not only ties you to your family, but to the Torah, too. Residents created beautifully hand-painted plaques with their Hebrew names to hang outside their rooms. 

Norman Saracheck, father to Becky, noted, “Becky was never a part of regular Sunday School, being in special education during her school years. I am thrilled that you and Gavriel are bringing Judaism into her life in such a nice way.”

But what about these long, cold winter months? No problem! Virtual Zoom get-togethers have helped the agency continue to run programming without interruption. For a special treat, Gavriel planned a surprise Chanukah celebration. Everyone started out by watching a YouTube video about Chanukah, starring Mayim Bialik. While the video played, Gavriel and Chelsea drove to Tikvah House to surprise Becky, Ally and Adam with a quick outdoor Chanukah candle-lighting and individual gift boxes filled with latkes, gelt and a homemade Chanukah card. 

“I like the programs,” said Becky, a resident, “I tell my dad, Jetty and my sister about them.”

Knowing that music is important to residents Ally and Becky, Gavriel plays a song by an Israeli artist at the end of each virtual session that gets added to an ongoing playlist for them to access on YouTube.

“I appreciate that as I am bringing lessons to Tikvah House about Jewish holidays and traditions. I am also learning about the deeper meaning of things I have taken for granted all my life,” shared Gavriel.