Building friendships with seniors is a large part of rabbi’s philosophy
On December 12, a retirement party will be held for Rabbi Hershel Schechter, who has served at the Manoir Montefiore since its inception.
But Schechter is quick to point out that the relationship he has built with the residents is not about to end. “Over 22 years, I’ve bonded with the people here. Seniors need friendship; that is the main thrust of my mandate. The statement that I am retiring is not correct—I am cutting my hours to half of what they were, but not retiring completely.”
In the beginning, Schechter’s duties encompassed marketing and renting apartments. “It was a time we were just growing, just starting out and I was involved quite a bit. But as time went on, the most important task was to be with people, to make sure their needs were satisfied and that they were happy.”
Schechter says that staying in touch with adult children is of paramount importance to residents. “If a person doesn’t hear from a child, they express anxiety. You can’t imagine how much they appreciate hearing from them, hearing their voice. They need to know their kids are there.”
Schechter says that even when children live outside Quebec, they are supportive of their parents. “If you call them and ask for any special need, they are very forthcoming, they are just a phone call away. I’ve always maintained that the support children show their parents is more important to the parent’ health than any chemical compound they can get from a doctor.”
Another crucial need is relating joyfully to their fellow residents and caregivers. Many residents came to Montefiore because they lost spouses and don’t want to feel alone.
But the transition can be difficult, Schechter says.
“Some seniors don’t find it easy to establish relationships with co-residents. They may sit quietly, are very pleasant and find their nook and cranny but they don’t mix as they should. It’s up to the rabbi to promote friendship. Communication is the key to their satisfaction.”
As people age, nourishment becomes more important. “Food is an issue in all retirement homes,” Hershel says.
“But I always speak about physical nutrition and spiritual nutrition. I feel that people become more spiritual as they age. Many, as they get older, will go to synagogue more than they did initially.” Schechter is proud to note that in 22 years, the residence synagogue has never missed services.
“I am involved with Nach, the segment of our prophets, and the Talmud,” Schechter says. “It is a perpetual lifetime study. There is so much to be learned, all your life you could study the lessons of our Torah.”
But residents will remain a priority. “If you develop a certain relationship with various people that you serve, you will want to be with them, visit them, and you don’t really retire, you want to continue as long as you feel you have something to give. That is really part of our faith.”