Tze’irim and the Senior Lunch Program

By Jodi Smith | Issue Date: January 2013

Senior Lunch Program Volunteers. Photo: Jodi SmithThat person you see every day on your commute, the waiters at your favorite restaurant, the person who serves you lunch at the deli around the block. As New Yorkers, we know about connections, we know we come into contact with a myriad of people each day. Many of these connections, though, are brief—a quick wave, an acknowledged head nod, a glance, a smile.

What starts in those ways sometimes continues in a spirited environment with long conversation and sitting down face-to-face over a hot meal. These elements serve as some key ingredients that make more than passing connections—they make sincere relationships. And that is the true pleasure of the work that I do as social action co-chair of Tze’irim, B’nai Jeshurun’s 20’s and 30’s group, especially at one of our regular service projects, facilitating the Sunday Senior Lunch Program run through the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty. At the senior lunch program, I have gotten to know each senior personally. Over brewing cups of tea, I spoke with one woman about her grandchildren and how she cherishes their visits, while one couple described their family still in China even though they have built a life for themselves here. I enjoyed an hourlong conversation with another senior in his apartment, where he proudly showed off the redecoration efforts of himself and his wife as well as chatted about his war experience. One of my favorite seniors is a woman who seems a little bit reserved, but in sitting down with her, I’ve discovered that it may be loneliness that makes her appear that way and that, underneath, she is happy to live where she does. She has a fondness for New York City, street fairs, discovering new neighborhoods, and eating new foods. I think I can speak for the almost 100 Tze’irim Senior Lunch volunteers who have similar experiences to mine in saying that we feel that we are helping in a special way by sharing our stories and listening to the seniors’ stories.

Jodi SmithFor me, and I suspect for many of the young people whom I have the privilege to work with through B’nai Jeshurun and Tze’irim, sustained connection and making a true difference in the lives of others is why we engage in social action/social justice work and, often, why we choose B’nai Jeshurun in the first place. Meeting others for whom the meaning of tikkun olam, repairing the world, can come alive in a bustling, busy area like New York City, is a real gem. In fact, volunteering at the Metropolitan Council of Jewish Poverty Senior Lunch programs is only one of our volunteer initiatives through Tze’irim. Look for us in the community, especially in our work at the B’nai Jeshurun shelter. Our Tze’irim board is made up of about seven board members, and we’re thrilled to have exciting programming for 20’s and 30’s for Shabbat, for the holidays, just for fun in the city. It’s been a wonderful group to be involved with. We’d love to meet you and to have you join us!

Jodi Smith is excited to be on the Tze’irim committee for a second year as Social Action/ Social Justice Co-Chair. She works as a Jewish educator, enjoys outdoor activities and loves connecting with others, whether family, friends or new people that she meets.