Grants for the Jewish Elderly Enhance Life After 60

Jewish senior

Getting old may not be easy…but, with the help of the Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven, it’s getting easier.

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Since it was established in 2020, $549,000 in Grants for the Jewish Elderly have been awarded to a variety of Jewish organizations and agencies for new and innovative projects and programs that enhance the quality of life for the Jewish elderly in the New Haven community.

The need for such programs is critical—and, with the Baby Boomer cohort in the US projected to exceed 20% by the year 2030, the need for resources for older adults is expected to continue to increase.

The Jewish Foundation’s Grants for Jewish Elderly is here to meet that compelling need, thanks to the generosity of the former Jewish Home Building Fund Corporation, as well as several funds of the Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven, including the Isaac & Mary Liveten Fund for the Jewish Home for the Aged; Marion Litsky Fund for the Jewish Elderly; Irvin Shiner 75th Birthday Fund for the Jewish Home for the Aged; Benjamin & Freda Cohen Memorial Fund for Jewish programs for the Frail & Elderly; Eva Kahn Fund for Elderly Services; Harry Braffman Fund for the Jewish Elderly; Leo Links Fund for the Jewish Elderly

This year, $169,000 in Grants for the Jewish Elderly were awarded to three deserving agencies for new and innovative programs: The Towers of Tower Lane, Jewish Family Service of Greater New Haven, and Chabad of the Shoreline.

“We have been pleased to secure continued funding to support our community’s Jewish aged population through the grants awarded to the Towers, JFS, and Chabad of the Shoreline,” said Craig Sklar, chair of the Foundation’s Jewish Elderly Grants Committee. “We hope to continue to address the many needs of our geriatric population by providing food support, socialization, and social work services.”

Jewish Family Service was awarded a grant for their Care Navigators Program, a support program open to all aging adults regardless of socioeconomic status, faith, culture, or race. The program provides the assessments, referrals, and support required to keep the elderly safely in their own homes or appropriate new housing. In this way, they will be living physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and socially to their fullest extent.

“We are grateful to the Foundation for supporting the creation of a platform where all older adults and their families are supported,” Elanit Lender, LMSW, the aging adult and community outreach coordinator for JFS. “Aging levels the playing field. We all age and this grant supports aging with dignity for folks of all walks of life. If an individual has a healthcare crisis, this levels the playing field in a way that is beyond quality of life measures. Care Navigators helps all people to navigate and understand the best options during the crisis or in a planful manner to avoid any incidents.”

The Towers at Tower Lane is putting its grant to good use with plans to create a new community garden on the senior living facility’s campus.

“The garden will replace our 13,300 square foot basketball court which is decaying and unusable. The new garden will transform our campus and provide both much needed green space and many other features,” says Jennifer Baron Bayer, The Towers’ director of development and community relations.

The community garden will include: Raised wheelchair accessible beds enabling seniors to plant while remaining seated; herb garden; chicken coop for fresh eggs; water feature and reflection area; shaded gathering area; bocce court; dog run; and, for all those visits from the grandkids, a play area.

The garden will be a hub for both education and volunteerism. Towers partner Morrison Living will provide nutritional workshops. Local schools and camps may volunteer and learn in the garden. In addition says Bayer, “We are delighted to share the bounty of our garden with those who might be in need.”

Of course, all this would not be possible without community help.

“The Towers is grateful for the support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Justice Grant Program and the Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven’s Elderly Grant process for major funding to help this project get underway. The Towers also thanks its private donors and The Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven’s Impact Grant Program for additional funding,” she notes.

Volunteers interested in joining The Towers Community Garden Task Force, contact Jennifer Bayer at or (203) 772-1816, ext. 290.

Chabad of the Shoreline received a Grant for Jewish Elderly for its Smile on Seniors program which links volunteers with homebound or lonely elderly people for weekly visits. The goal is to bring them joy and stimulation, reduce isolation, and increase socialization. SOS also hosts Intergenerational projects that uplift and invigorate the elderly — and benefit volunteers, who learn from their elders’ wisdom and life experience.

“We hope ultimately to match every Jewish senior in need on the Shoreline with a volunteer,” says Rabbi Yosef Yaffe, spiritual leader of Chabad of the Shoreline. “The Jewish elderly on the Shoreline critically need companionship and friendship, especially since COVID has disrupted their safety nets and social fabric.”

Chabad presented to the Foundation a proposal to create the Smiles for Seniors program and, in October 2021, they hired a senior services coordinator, Melanie van Emmenes, to create a database of every senior facility on the Shoreline. Van Emmenes visits the facilities that have Jewish residents, bringing Chanukah, Purim and pre-Pesach gift packages to residents and coordinating several holiday events.

Thinking of the community beyond Chabad, Rabbi Yaffe says, “We plan to map all Jewish services on the Shoreline and determine who can benefit from our friendly visitor program. This will also allow us to introduce them to the Jewish Family Service’s products and programs.”

Smiles for Seniors will mobilize community members to take the initiative and look out for their elderly neighbors and friends. With this, says Yaffe, Chabad’s program “will create a long-term support system and a sense of Jewish community for the elderly.”

“Our committee work underscores the importance of the Foundation as a resource for our greater community and the Federation,” Sklar says. The funds donated by the former Jewish Home for the Aged corporation will provide significant annual support for future endeavors.