by Alisa Roberts.
Over two hundred members of the Los Angeles community found their way to Beth Jacob this past Sunday to attend the Golden Years Symposium. “It was wonderful for seniors; very informative,” said participant Dorothy Korchak. Another attendee, Sandy Orenshein, added, “I enjoyed the lectures and the lunch. Everything was really well done, and I learned some new things.” The event, sponsored by Beth Jacob in partnership with Cedars-Sinai, Bikur Cholim, the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, the Orthodox Union, and Young Israel of Century City, was the first of its kind to be held in LA for a Jewish audience. The half-day symposium offered a variety of lectures from renowned speakers, followed by a lunch and resource fair.
“We received guidance from many community members,” said Rabbi Adir Posy, Associate Rabbi at Beth Jacob and assistant director of the OU West Coast office. “Mr. David Slomovic, a successful executive in the field of elder care, was especially helpful. He offered a great deal of his time to help the Shul mold the program to the community’s needs.”
The idea for the symposium began with Rabbi Kalman Topp, Senior Rabbi of Beth Jacob. While the topics chosen were geared to the Los Angeles audience, the program itself was inspired by similar successful programs which the Orthodox Union’s department of Community Engagement has run in the past.
The day began at 9 a.m. with three lecture choices. Sheila Moore, Director of Senior Center Services at Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles spoke about happiness and fulfilment in her talk, “Keeping the Golden Years Golden.” “The Health Care Insurance Maze,” was expertly navigated by David Bacall, Division VP for AXA Advisors, LLC, and Dr. Steven Tabak, Board certified cardiologist and Professor of Medicine at the UCLA School of Medicine. The practical issues that often come up for Jewish patients in hospitals were addressed by Rabbi Hershey Ten, President of Bikur Cholim of LA, and Rabbi Jason Weiner, Senior Rabbi and Manager of the Spiritual Care Department at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in their talk: “The Hospital Experience – Planning Ahead.”
The next hour brought three more choices. Debbie Fox, LCSW with expertise in geriatric care, and Rabbi Dr. David Fox, rabbi and psychologist, discussed the complex decisions that families face during their talk, “Caring for an Aging Relative: The Family Context.” Dr. Shlomo Melmed, Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Medical Faculty at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Professor and Associate Dean of the UCLA School of Medicine discussed new advances in the medical field in his lecture, “The Next Ten Years in Medicine – What Will it Mean for Me?” Finally there was a panel discussion: “Financial and Legal Aspects of the Golden Years,” with Bunni Dybnis, LMFT CMC and Director of Professional Services at LivHOME, and Terry Magady, Elder Law attorney. This was moderated by Selwyn Gerber, CPA, RIA and founder of Gerber & Co and RVW Investing.
The lectures were followed by healthy lunch and a Senior Resource Fair, which boasted 22 resource providers from a wide spectrum of fields including financial, legal and estate planning, end of life, healthcare, and fitness services.
“We really feel that the message of the day was that shul is not just a place to go to daven, but also a place that can additionally hold communal conversations,” said Rabbi Posy.
The participants were happy to join in the conversation. Milton Sanber came with the goal of becoming better informed about the advances in health and medicine. He wasn’t disappointed. “It was a very positive experience,” he said. “There were so many options that it was difficult to choose; they were all good. And I do feel better informed.”
Alan Altschul, a reverse mortgage specialist, was impressed by the tone of the event. “Beth Jacob provided a very friendly atmosphere, heimish and welcoming,” he said. Mr. Altschul specializes in reverse mortgages, a service only available for seniors and one which can be an integral part of retirement and estate planning. Many of the participants he spoke to had not even been aware of what could be done for them. “It was an educational experience,” he added with a smile. Susan Fink, a personal trainer, pointed out both the diversity of information offered and how it all came together, “It was a good program. There were many resources, and a fair representation of the issues of concern to seniors. Today is all about the golden years, and – if you take care of your finances, health, and body – they really can be golden.”
Lynn Mayer, of Mt. Sinai Memorial Park & Mortuary, was excited just to get people interested in the discussion. “I think it’s fabulous,” she said. “All this information is so helpful, especially on topics that people might not want to talk about. But when they do, it gives them such peace of mind.”After all the planning and coordinating, after the speakers had gone and the last participants were finishing their lunches, Rabbi Posy only had one question: “When are we going to do the next one?”