Jewish Life at Aviva: That Meshpucha Feeling

March 28, 2017

“Jewish Life at Aviva: Living Our Legacy” is a monthly series by Campus Rabbi Emerita Barbara Aiello

“That Meshpucha Feeling”

Brianna Leilani, the daughter of interfaith parents, recently made a “Birthright” visit to Israel where she learned her first Hebrew word. “I learned ‘mishpucha,’, says Brianna, “which means ‘family’ but in Israel I saw that ‘mishpucha’ has a much wider connotation.” Brianna goes on to say that wherever she goes, when she finds herself in the company of other Jewish people, “I get the feeling that for us Jews we are all meshpucha, which means that we are all family to one another.”

That “mishpucha feeling,” is a fundamental part of Jewish life and something I came to treasure during my years on the Aviva campus as resident rabbi. A large part of my rabbinic responsibilities included hospital visits when our Kobernick, Anchin or Benderson residents needed care that only a hospital stay could provide.

On this particular afternoon it was Miriam M., an Aviva resident, who warmly welcomed me, and offered me a seat in the comfortable chair at her bedside. It wasn’t long before we were chatting, “kibitzing,” and sharing campus news. When it was time to leave I asked Miriam if there was anyone back at Kobernick Independent Living who would appreciate hearing Miriam’s “good report.”

Miriam, who had just completed a series of tests, smiled broadly. “Oh, yes,” she said, “On Monday nights I eat supper with three of my neighbors, then on Tuesday I have a table of my old friends – we all lived in the same condo complex before we moved to Aviva, and then there’s my “mahjong” group and the girls I work with in the library …”

I dipped into my tote bag and found my notebook and pen just as Miriam was reeling off a list that totaled nearly 15 names – all Aviva residents who had become supportive and caring friends.

“Tell all the girls,” Miriam said, “that I’m doing fine and I’ll be back home to Aviva soon!”

Later on as I got to work making telephone calls to Miriam’s friends, I realized that I had just experienced that “meshpucha” feeling and at Aviva it’s contagious. For older men and women, many of whom live far from their biological families and as a result often found themselves isolated and alone, Aviva offers opportunities for communication, sharing and friendship.

Whether we’re 19 or 90, gathering and bonding with a wide circle of friends with whom we make that family connection is an integral part of Jewish culture and fundamental to putting Jewish values into practice.

Brianna, our interfaith teen, puts it best when she says, “Mishpucha to me, means the group of people whom I love…we understand each other and we accept one another for who we are.” The essence of “meshpucha” is coming home to family, and when it is the Aviva family, it is truly a beautiful thing.

Living Our Legacy is written by Rabbi Emerita Barbara Aiello and features anecdotes about Jewish life on the Aviva Campus. You can contact her at Rabbi@RabbiBarbara.com

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