Bahai News - THE EASTER SPIRIT
THE EASTER SPIRIT / Worshiping and celebrating - with volunteer
help at Parker Jewish Institute SIDEBAR: ON RELIGION (SEE END OF TEXT)
By Henry Gilgoff. STAFF WRITER; Paul Moses
LOOKING OUT at the older adults gathered in wheelchairs in the auditorium
at Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation, the Rev.
Andrew Sioleti emphasized the hope in the Easter story of resurrection.
"The hope is not that we will win the lottery," he said last Sunday
morning. "The hope is that we have love, that we have peace, that
we have faith."
Among the group before him as he celebrated Easter Mass were short-term
patients at Parker for rehabilitation and long-term-care residents, including
people with dementia. For some of them, Sioleti said, the hope may be simply
for less loneliness and more happiness.
The logistics involved on the holiest of Christian holidays at the
historically Jewish facility in New Hyde Park reflect what one staff
member has called "controlled chaos."
Volunteers, choreographed by the institute's staff, make the difference.
About 50 helped this Easter, according to Myra Cohen, the institute's
director of volunteers.
They come from different generations as well as different religious
backgrounds. David Rand, 82, of Floral Park, came with his friend, Norman
Hirsch, 75, of Little Neck. Rand's son, Mark, 36, also of Floral Park,
The phrase "controlled chaos," used by Jacob Berlin, senior
therapist for therapeutic recreation at the 527-bed institute, was recalled
Sunday by Steven Frost of Glen Oaks.
"It is controlled chaos," said Frost, 45, a volunteer from Temple Sholom
in Floral Park, "but it works."
On Easter Sunday, the result was a respectful religious observance-attended
by many of the patients and residents-and a festive holiday celebration
including a special meal and a rousing and inspiring rendition of the song
"Crazy" by a resident, Angela Lobriglio, 84...Angie, to her fans.
The challenge of the day was explained at the institute, which remains a
kosher facility but is open to people without regard to religion. Most of
the residents and patients at Parker cannot walk or lift themselves
independently out of a wheelchair, said Dr. Conn Foley, the institute's
medical director. So, for the Easter service and lunch, "We need large
numbers of people to transport them," said Edith Shapiro, director of
"Given the fact that it's a major holiday," she said,
"staffing is not at its peak."
Rabbi Lowell S. Kronick, director of pastoral services at Parker, faced
an unusual situation this year, as Easter Sunday coincided with the last
day of Passover.
Sioleti, the priest who has officiated for a few years at the Easter
Mass, is a friend of the rabbi's. He described himself in a light moment
during the service as an Easter bunny who hops into the institute only
occasionally. The priest serves as chief of chaplains at the New York Harbor
Health Care System, which operates through various facilities in the region.
On the same morning as his friend celebrated the Mass, Kronick held a
service for the Jewish holiday in another part of Parker. It enabled the
participants of his faith "to commemorate the souls of their beloved,
departed relatives" and reminded them of their roots and the Jews' exodus
from Egypt and slavery.
The institute's mission, from a spiritual perspective, he said, is "to
help all patients of different religions."
As an occasional holiday helper from the same temple as Frost, I have
joined the volunteers, too. We wheel patients and residents from their
rooms on five floors to the elevators; we take them in and out of the
auditorium on the main floor; we serve and clear the meals in both the
auditorium and a lower-level cafeteria.
We make connections, too, however fleetingly. Frost's 13-year-old son,
Josh, recalled one Christmas when he wore an elf's hat his mother had given
him. He remembered the reaction of some of the residents at Parker:
"They were laughing and saying, 'Oh, look.' Some people, you can tell it
makes them happy to see very young people around."
As usual, the volunteers began their day at Parker with a meeting where
they received instructions from the institute's staff.
For the Frosts, the bridge to service at Parker has been their temple and
its mitzvah program, meaning in the colloquial sense of the Hebrew word, to
do a good deed and to help others. The literal meaning in Judaism relates
to God's commandments.
An idea carried home from a meeting of temple brotherhoods or men's groups
gave birth more than a decade ago to the bond that developed between Temple
Sholom and Parker.
"This program reminds me that religion is more than just reading prayers
from a book," said Frost, who works in an information systems job at an
Like any teenager, Josh acknowledged, he would prefer to sleep late on
Sunday. His rewards for coming to Parker, instead, both on Easter and
Christmas, include a patient's smile and the good feeling he gets.
Said the father of his son's participation: "In the end I always say,
'It's your decision,' and he always comes."
Volunteer Michael Renna, an assistant principal at Hillcrest High School
in Jamaica Estates, comes frequently to Parker with others from Our Lady of
the Snows in Floral Park. He had read a blurb about his church's link to
Parker in a parish bulletin, and he has been coming to the institute for 13
At his Catholic church, Renna sings baritone in the choir. At the Easter
service at Parker, he served as the leader in song. Every week, he joins
with a priest from Our Lady of the Snows and a group of adult and young
teenage volunteers for Mass on Saturdays at Parker.
"This is a labor of love," said Msgr. Raymond Chappetto, pastor of Our
Lady of the Snows, which, like Temple Sholom, is in eastern Queens, not
far from Parker.
Jerry Landsberg, 67, of Great Neck feels the same way. "I don't do these
things to be a do-gooder," Landsberg said. "I do it because I enjoy doing
Landsberg, president of London Optical in Nassau and Suffolk, is also a
trustee of Parker, and he, his wife, Gloria, 62, and a contingent from
Temple Beth-El in Great Neck joined with the other volunteers Sunday, just
as they have in previous years.
Shapiro estimated that 175 residents and patients were brought to and from
the Easter Mass, and even more for the holiday meal. Counting relatives, about
275 people shared the Easter lunch, Shapiro said.
The menu included brown sugar-roasted turkey or roasted leg of lamb with
mint sauce, rosemary-roasted potatoes, a vegetable medley, wine and soda,
and a holiday dessert.
For Laura Hausch, Easter has always been an important and joyous holiday,
with attendance at a service, visits with relatives and a celebratory meal.
She cannot walk now, but she joins in a tai chi exercise program at
Parker. She sparkles when she smiles and gives her age as 19, later
acknowledging that she has reversed the numbers. She participates in a
residents' council, where projects can be undertaken and suggestions given
to the staff.
Hausch hopes the volunteers take an important lesson from their time at
Parker-never to leave relatives who can no longer live on their own without
Her daughter, Lois Hausch, 55, of New Hyde Park is a frequent visitor. She
helps decorate her mother's room with photographs that give a family history.
"We make it as nice as we can, a home away from home," she said.
"My mother," she said, "always practiced her religion." So the
daughter appreciates the volunteers who help make religious services possible
for her mother. "It's no easy feat moving everyone from their respective
floors, " she said.
Sitting at the same table as Laura and Lois Hausch for the Easter lunch
was the woman known best at Parker as Angie, who gave the gathering the gift
of her singing.
"I'm very lucky," she said. "I have all my senses." And a beautiful
Robert Tuner sang and played the keyboard during the lunch served in the
auditorium as one of the residents sat almost directly before him, tapping
her hand to the music.
But the professional musician couldn't compete with Angie, the house
favorite. Sitting next to Tuner in her wheelchair, she sang "Crazy" in the
style of Patsy Cline. Angie had worked as a secretary but had dreamed of
being a bandleader. On Easter Sunday, she did what she always does when
she has an opportunity to perform. She put all of herself into her
performance. "Crazy," she sang, "I'm crazy for feeling so lonely."
Then, back at her table, she gathered up the compliments from her friends
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Page last updated/revised 052901
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