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Yishar Koach to the Nonagenarians at Handmaker

by Nanci Levy | Jun 03, 2016

Hannahs Magnifying Glass“Yishar Koach” exclaims Hannah as she reaches out to warmly shake Betty’s hand with a huge smile, and a look of pride on her face for her friend who has just read the Torah Blessing. And so it goes every Saturday morning at Handmaker as the residents of this tight knit community support one another as they participate in the Shabbat morning service.

Led by Mel Cohen and Dan Asia, these Shabbat morning services help to create a wonderfully connected and caring community at Handmaker. These mornings are such an important part of the week at Handmaker, and each individual has an essential and valued role in the service. Mel and Dan make sure of it.

 “Would you believe that I had never read the Torah blessing before I came here?” says Handmaker resident Gertrude Shankman. Gertrude has been living at Handmaker for nearly ten years, and at 101, she is their oldest resident. She has been a Temple member for all of her life, but until Mel asked her to participate in the Handmaker service, she had never had the honor of an Aliyah. Now she does it every week, and she will be forever grateful to him for asking.

Nathan Shapiro, a Handmaker resident who had a stint as a boy cantor back east over 80 years ago, regularly lends his still steady and beautiful voice to the Shabbat morning service as the unofficial cantor. Another Handmaker resident, Les Waldman, can be found at the Bimah most Saturday mornings leading the Sh’ma and serving as the Gabbai. And most anyone who wants to can have the honor of an Aliyah, reading the Torah blessing. Dan and Mel take turns carefully draping a Tallit over the shoulders of each congregant before they are led up to the Bimah, and “Yishar Koach”s (well done, in Hebrew) abound with kisses and hugs for each other after each blessing is read and the residents are carefully guided back to their seats. It is both inspiring and heartwarming to watch them take such pride in their own and each other’s accomplishments.

In addition to the residents, there are others who regularly join the service. One family comes weekly with their two young sons, because they “just really enjoy the service”. Handmaker volunteers, Tucson Hebrew Academy students, and family members and friends of residents are often in attendance, and more are always welcome. These services are a peaceful way to spend your Shabbat and beautiful way to honor our mothers and fathers by spending time with the elders in our community. And every service is followed by a beautiful Kiddush spread, complete with pickled herring! What's not to like?

Shabbat morning services are held every Saturday morning at 9:30am in the Great Room at Handmaker, followed by a light Kiddish lunch. There will be a Shavuot study session beginning at 6:30pm on Sunday, June 12 and the Shavuot Festival service will be held on Monday, June 13 at 9:30am in the Great room as well. Please join us!