Annual Symposium on Positive Aging

The 5th Annual Symposium on Positive Aging took place on Monday, Nov 16, 2020. The entirely-virtual symposium featured a conversation between Paul Irving, Chairman, Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging and Rabbi Laura Geller, author of Getting Good at Getting Older.

Attendees selected one workshop from a variety of offerings; topics include food, dance, literature, mindfulness, memory, and combating loneliness. Small group or breakout sessions will create opportunities for conversations and connections, and a movement session was incorporated into the day. 

Event PartnersKaiserman JCC (Philadelphia, PA), JCC of the North Shore (Marblehead, MA), Edlavitch DCJCC (Washington, DC), Mid-Island Y JCC (Plainview, NY), Barry and Florence Friedberg JCC (Oceanside, NY), Manny Cantor Center (New York, NY), 14th Street Y (New York, NY), Suffolk Y JCC (Commack, NY), Riverdale YM-YWHA (New York, NY), Sid Jacobson JCC (East Hills, NY), Shalom Austin (Austin, TX), and Temple Sinai (Houston, TX).

The 2020 Symposium on Positive Aging was generously sponsored by 305 West End Assisted Living, Inspīr Senior Living, the New Jewish Home, and Renewal Care.





Resilience Through the Written Word
Sandee Brawarsky, Esther Amini, and David Adjmi
Contemporary authors bring us moving stories of resilience, hope, and optimism through the characters or tales they create and the experiences they relate. Sandee Brawarsky, long-time culture editor of The Jewish Week, will moderate a conversation between Esther Amini and David Adjmi, two authors who have written powerful memoirs. Esther’s memoir, Concealed, tells of a Jewish-Iranian daughter caught between the chador and America. David’s memoir, Lot Six, explores his growing up in a volatile Syrian-Jewish household in Brooklyn, suppressing his homosexuality, and his eventual reinvention of himself as a theater artist. The workshop will include readings, conversation,  and an opportunity for questions.  Both books are available in independent bookstores and online.

Celebrate Resilience, Vitality, and Joy: A Dance Workshop 
Naomi Goldberg Haas and members of the Dances for a Variable Workshop 
Join us for an hour of creative exploration using our bodies to express the strength, beauty, and wisdom of older age as we create joy in movement. This message is of particular importance in these  times. In this MOVEMENT SPEAKS ®  workshop we will use creative movement in the spirit of collaboration and connection, creating dances based on these themes. 

Translating Old World Dishes into Modern Day Recipes: The Process of Preserving a Family Favorite
Jennifer Abadi
Set out your own Middle Eastern mezze platter, pull up a chair, and join cooking instructor and cookbook author Jennifer Abadi for a demonstration and discussion on preserving Sephardic and Judeo-Arabic recipes and food traditions. Jennifer will showcase a family recipe and share stories of cooking with her Syrian grandmother, Fritzie. Afterward, she will describe her process of researching, developing, and writing a working recipe that she can preserve by teaching it to others.

Mindful Path to Hope and Healing
Sheila and Sheldon Lewis 
This experiential workshop offers meditation practices, spiritual wisdom, practical tools, and creative techniques for cultivating resilience as we grow older. We will draw on ancient spiritual traditions and modern neuroscience to imbue our daily lives with deeper meaning and purpose. Sheila and Sheldon, who began studying meditation in the 1970s, will share wisdom and practices from many traditions. As teachers of meditation and spirituality, they aim to inspire others to initiate and deepen their spiritual practice and uplift their lives.  

Alone But Not Lonely
Faye Wilbur, LCSW-R
The coronavirus pandemic has forced people to be alone more than most would have chosen. Some people feel alone when they are by themselves; others feel lonely even while physically with others. The goal of this workshop is for each participant to gain greater insight into loneliness by exploring unique and creative ways to tap into existing strengths, grow and nurture new strengths, and meet the challenges of loneliness head-on. In addition to the learning, participants will have the opportunity to communicate with others via online chat.

Passion as a Catalyst in Times of Change
Renee Cherow-O'Leary, Ph.D.
The word passion has many definitions. One of them is "a strong or extravagant enthusiasm," which can awaken our deepest sense of self and give life renewed meaning. Through five poems that will be distributed to participants ahead of time, we will use varied lenses to explore  the idea of passion as a source of life-giving sustenance and substance to our later years. This workshop is about finding joy, zest, and creativity that can carry us as we age and considers how great poets have confronted issues of vitality and mortality. In this workshop, each participant will write a very brief haiku, an image poem, or just a line or two, stimulated by our discussion. We will read them aloud to create a group poem reflecting the wide range of potentialities the poetry has evoked and that we can take with us--in our own words--as we move forward.

Take Command of Your Brain’s Control Center
Amanda Sacks-Zimmerman, Ph.D. + Jessica Spat-Lemus, Ph.D.
While our brains are responsible for many cognitive functions, the most important domain to our everyday life is executive functioning. Executive functions are a set of cognitive processes that control goal-directed behavior, such as our ability to organize our approach to tasks, create mental maps for getting things done in the right order, self-monitor our task performance, problem-solve complex issues, and regulate our emotions. When these abilities are working well, life goes smoothly, but a glitch in an executive function can contribute to feeling overwhelmed. In this workshop, we will learn and engage with strategies that increase awareness of these executive functions and provide the ability to maintain more control over them.

Who's Who

Rabbi Laura Geller, Rabbi Emerita of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, was twice named one of Newsweek’s 50 Most Influential Rabbis in America, and was named by PBS Next Avenue as one of the fifty 2017 Influencers in Aging.  Prior to becoming one of the first women to be selected through a national search to lead a major metropolitan synagogue, Rabbi Geller served as the Director of Hillel of University of Southern California for 14 years and as the Pacific Southwest Region's Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress for 4 years.  She was featured in the PBS documentary “Jewish Americans.” Author of numerous articles in books and journals, she was on the editorial board of The Torah: A Women’s Commentary.  She serves as a Fellow of the Corporation of Brown University from where she graduated in 1971. In addition she serves on the boards of and the Jewish Women's Archives. Ordained by Hebrew Union College in 1976, she is the third woman in the Reform Movement to become a rabbi. She is a co-founder of ChaiVillageLA, the first synagogue based VIllage in the country, and along with her husband RIchard Siegel (z'l) she is the coauthor of Getting Good at Getting Older.

Paul Irving is chairman of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging, chairman of, and distinguished scholar-in-residence at the University of Southern California Davis School of Gerontology. He previously served as the Milken Institute’s president, an advanced leadership fellow at Harvard University, and chairman and CEO of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, a national law and consulting firm. Irving is a director of East West Bancorp, Inc. and serves on the National Advisory Council of the Stanford University Distinguished Careers Institute, the Board of Councilors of the USC Davis School, the Global Coalition on Aging Advisory Council, the Advisory Board of WorkingNation, and the Purposeful Aging Los Angeles Steering Committee. A member of the National Academy of Medicine Commission for Healthy Longevity, he previously served on the Bipartisan Policy Center Senior Health and Housing Task Force and as a participant in the 2015 White House Conference on Aging. Author/editor of The Upside of Aging: How Long Life Is Changing the World of Health, Work, Innovation, Policy, and Purpose, a Wall Street Journal expert panelist and contributor to the Harvard Business Review, PBS NextAvenue, and Forbes, NextAvenue named Irving an “Influencer” for his work, and he was recognized with the Janet L. Witkin Humanitarian Award by Affordable Living for the Aging, the Life Journey Inspiration Award by Stanford’s Distinguished Careers Institute, and the Board of Governors Award by Loyola Law School, Los Angeles.

Workshop Facilitators

Jennifer Abadi lives in New York City and is a researcher, developer, and preserver of Sephardic and Judeo-Arabic recipes and food customs. A culinary expert in the Jewish communities of the Middle East, Mediterranean, Central Asia, and North Africa, Jennifer teaches cooking at the Institute of Culinary Education and at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan. She also offers private lessons and works for a variety of clients in the New York City area as a personal chef and provides Jewish food and culture tours on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Her cookbook-memoir, A Fistful of Lentils: Syrian-Jewish Recipes from Grandma Fritzie's Kitchen, is a collection of recipes and stories from her family. Her second cookbook, Too Good to Passover: Sephardic & Judeo-Arabic Seder Menus and Memories from Africa, Asia and Europe, provides an anthropological and historical context to ways in which the Jewish communities in these areas observe and enjoy this beloved ancient festival.

David Adjmi was named one of the Top Ten in Culture by The New Yorker in 2011. His plays have been produced and developed by the Royal Shakespeare Company, Soho Rep, Lincoln Center, Steppenwolf, and many others. His awards include a Mellon Foundation grant, the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Whiting Writers’ Award, the Kesselring Prize for Drama, the Steinberg Playwright Award (the “Mimi”), and Bush Artists Fellowship.  He is the recipient of residencies from the Dora Maar House, American Academy of Rome, the Bogliasco Foundation, The MacDowell Colony, Corporation of Yaddo, Djerassi, UCross and others. He lives in Los Angeles.

Esther Amini is a writer, painter, and psychoanalytic psychotherapist in private practice. Her short stories have appeared in Elle, Lilith, Tablet, The Jewish Week, and Proximity. She was awarded an Aspen Words Emerging Writer Fellowship in 2016 based on an early draft of her debut memoir, Concealed. Her pieces have been performed by Jewish Women’s Theatre, which named her artist-in-residence in 2019. Esther lives in New York City with her husband.

Sandee Brawarsky, an award-winning writer and editor, has been the culture editor of The Jewish Week, and recently received a Simon Rockower Award for Excellence in Jewish Journalism. For the newspaper, she also curated and moderated cultural events. She’s the author of several books, most recently 212 Views of Central Park: Experiencing New York’s Jewel from Every Angle, with photographer Mick Hales. Her essays and articles have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Lancet, Hadassah, the Jerusalem Post and other publications. She is the co-editor of Two Jews, Three Opinions: A Collection of Twentieth Century American Jewish Quotations, with Deborah Mark. She lives in Teaneck, NJ, with her husband, Barry Lichtenberg, and family.

Renee Cherow-O'Leary, Ph.D., is currently an adjunct professor at Rutgers University in Newark in the Arts, Culture and Media Program and was previously a professor of  English, education, and media studies at Teachers College, Columbia University.  Much of her recent work has been centered on issues of aging. Renee has led Wise Aging groups at Congregation B'nai Jeshurun in New York City and co-led a program called GENerate, a year-long student and community-building project on creative aging, at Lab Shul in New York,. She has also taught a course at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan called Life Cycle Wisdom: Interdisciplinary View of Aging. Her new course at the JCC, Reopening Our Lives, Reopening Our Hearts, will be offered in December 2020, and looks at the meaning of crisis and choices for flourishing in a post-COVID world. Her new article in the Psychoanalytic Inquiry journal, "Mirrors, Passion, Power and Spirit: Fact and Fiction in the Stories of Aging Women," is based on research conducted with 100 women.  She also consults on program development for many media, human rights, Jewish, interfaith, and educational organizations.

Naomi Goldberg Haas is the artistic director and founder of Dances for a Variable Population (DVP), which promotes strong and creative movement among adults of all ages and abilities. DVP has performed at locations in New York City and around the world. She has worked in concert dance, theater, opera, and film and was awarded LMCC’s 2014 President’s Award for the Performing Arts as well as the prestigious DANCE USA 2019–20 Fellowship for Artists addressing social change.

Sheila Lewis is a meditation teacher and author who has also taught and lectured on writing and creativity for 30 years. For the past 15 years, she has taught meditation at Makom, the Center for Mindfulness at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, and has also led Jewish children’s book clubs and creative reinvention and job transition workshops aimed at building resilience, skills, and inner resources for all stages of life. Sheila currently designs and leads writing and meditation courses for MMJCC, the Knowledge Project NY and various other groups. She holds an MA in educational media from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a BFA from Boston University.

Sheldon Lewis is a longtime meditation teacher, mind-body practitioner, integrative health coach, and journalist. For the past 15 years, he has taught meditation at Makom, the Center for Mindfulness, at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, where he also leads the popular Change Your Brain with Meditation workshop. He has led programs, classes, and workshops on meditation, health, and spirituality in many settings, including medical practices, healthcare conferences, synagogues, and the Jewish Museum. Sheldon is a graduate of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine’s Professional and Advanced Mind-Body Medicine Training Programs.

Amanda Sacks-Zimmerman, Ph.D., is a clinical neuropsychologist with extensive experience assessing and treating neurological disorders with cognitive remediation as well as researching the cognitive impact of brain injury. Dr. Sacks-Zimmerman treats patients who suffer from cognitive and emotional difficulties resulting from a wide range of conditions, including epilepsy, radiation or chemotherapy, stroke, brain tumors, and movement disorders.

Jessica Spat-Lemus, Ph.D., is a clinical neuropsychologist who specializes in the neuropsychological testing, evaluation, and treatment of children with neurological disorders; she also provides cognitive remediation services to adolescents and adults. Dr. Spat-Lemus believes in moving beyond a diagnosis to identify a patient’s strengths and weaknesses, in order to make recommendations that integrate cultural values, community resources, and appropriate interventions to help children thrive.

Faye Wilbur, LCSW-R, is director of community relations for Mishkon, the division of the Jewish Board serving people with intellectual and developmental Disabilities. She has worked within the Jewish Board for many years in multiple roles, including Jewish Community Services, director of the Boro Park clinic of the Jewish Board, and Coordinator of Family Violence Services to the Jewish Community. She is a licensed clinical social worker and therapist and has specialized training in family and child therapy from the Martha K. Selig Educational Institute and the Ackerman Institute, focusing on intrafamilial trauma. In addition, she lectures and facilitates groups on healthy/unhealthy relationships, cultural competence, and family violence; teaches the NYS child abuse, maltreatment and neglect mandated course; and also maintains a private practice in Brooklyn.

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