DECEMBER 7, 2017 – PEABODY – Rim Meirowitz recently taught a three-part series of classes that drew 70 fellow residents of all religions at Brooksby Village. The rabbi emeritus at Temple Shir Tikva in Winchester, Meirowitz went through the Jewish calendar and major holidays, and also led a discussion about the difference between the concept of sin in Catholicism and Judaism.
“Everybody who attended learned something new and I was extremely gratified that it went so well,” said Meirowitz.
Such is an example of Jewish life at the retirement community in Peabody, where Jewish residents practice their faith in a variety of ways while embracing the many other religions of its residents. Leading the effort is Jewish Chaplain Anna Schutz, who has worked at Brooksby for 13 years. “It’s an honor for me to share my love of Judaism here,” she said. “It’s as though we are living on a diverse college campus. We study and practice Jewish cultural rituals and enjoy this stage of our lives together.”
When she first started at Brooksby, Schutz said, participation in Jewish life mostly centered around a monthly service led by an area rabbi. Now the Jewish activities on campus are virtually non-stop with something for everyone, including many that invite participation from the non-Jewish members of the community.
Rabbi Richard Perlman of Temple Ner Tamid is a regular at Brooksby, leading a monthly Friday night service. “When I was asked to lead the service, I jumped at the opportunity,” he said. “I knew it was hard for many of the residents to attend services, and as a member of the Jewish community, I was happy to help.”
Assuming the roles of both rabbi and cantor, Perlman enjoys singing in addition to leading the service. He is also available to counsel residents when needed.
“At the beginning, I made it clear that I would really be here for people,” he said. “I’m happy to take some time to slow down and listen.”
The complex has an active Jewish Council, consisting of nine residents, including its president, Harriet Feinstein. While she always pictured herself slowing down during retirement, she went to a council meeting when she first moved to Brooksby and “they had me at hello,” she joked. “I’ve been active in my temple for 55 years and even as a kid, I would volunteer for anything Jewish. It’s just in my blood.”
The council runs a wide range of programs, including a Jewish book group and a Yiddish club, as well as entertainment options, High Holiday services, fundraising events, and lectures. Feinstein marvels at the organization’s growth, even over the four years she’s lived at Brooksby.
“So many people are coming here now wanting to associate with Jewish life,” she said. “They are often relocated to the area by their children and want to form bonds by becoming involved in the Jewish community.”
With the Hanukkah season fast approaching, Schutz oversees a busy agenda, including a sing-along for all residents to enjoy, and a nightly candle-lighting ceremony. Schutz studied at Brandeis University and received clinical chaplaincy training at Beverly Hospital. Now, she applies those counseling skills at Brooksby, where she works one-on-one with residents to help them adapt to serious life challenges and transitions.
Everyone who contributes to Brooksby’s vibrant Jewish community seems to have a deep connection to the residents there and a strong sense of passion for their work. Said Rabbi Perlman, “When I come here, I can see the love in their eyes. I consider it a huge gift to get to know them.”