Who remembers being at the dorm and having the frat brothers stand outside and sing school songs, while the gals waved from the windows? Fast forward to the current pandemic era where senior residents are isolated from family and face-to-face visitors. Many residents are probably not on Zoom and social media as is the general population, averaging more than five hours a day.
Enter Brian Glusman, the Marcus JCC rabbi, who has been staying at home and making music with his wife and three children, Nathan, Rebecca and Deena. The musical family cooked up the idea to take the show on the road to the senior facilities’ grounds, eschewing the indoor areas.
Using social media during this trying time, Glusman and kids have been Zooming with hundreds of participants prior to Shabbat, which has garnered a huge following. “The JCC is not a synagogue, so we have a different reach. Our social media for musical acoustical Shabbat with our family showed what a need there was for this Jewish connection. Using this as a springboard, we thought about reaching out to seniors as another way of bringing our family to others.” Glusman approached Berman Commons’ Amanda Bunder, who loved the idea.
The sun was out, and the azaleas were at peak bloom when the Glusmans set up the sound system and instruments on the yard midday Sunday, April 5.
“After the first set, we figured out that we had only reached residents on one side of the building. Thus we did three 45 minute sets on each side. It was a good three hours, but worth feeling all the hearts and smiles as they waved and smiled.”
We can all guess the selected tunes: “Ma Nishtana” (Four Questions), “Oseh Shalom,” “Mi Kamocha,” “Avadim Hayinu” and more. “Dayenu” got the liveliest chorus participation!
Glusman ended each performance not with “Next year in Jerusalem,” but “Next year may we all be sitting around a seder table hugging each other.”
Although their names are protected for privacy reasons, the seniors and their relatives had this to say off the record about the Glusmans’ visit:
“Bless you! I am humming this with each of you and singing. May you and yours enjoy Pesach in good health.”
“My mother-in-law is there and the quarantine in their rooms has not been fun. Thanks for taking the time!”
“Enjoying this so much. I’m wheelchair bound, but am currently in bed, … so this means so much to me at this time.”
Glusman said he is open to performing at other facilities in the future. “Nathan and Rebecca both being home from college, and Deena, a junior at The Weber School, were all infused with purpose in sharing music like this with the seniors.”
Nathan, a junior at American University, said, “It was so meaningful to see the residents waving and singing along with us from their windows. We love playing music, and we were glad to be able to do something we enjoy while making others happy. “
Rebecca, a freshman at Northeastern University, added, “We hope we gave them a chance to smile and forget about the sadness in the world right now. It worked for us!”
Deena was in charge of packing the car, providing moral support, shooting the video and Facebook feeds.
Brian Glusman, an Atlanta native who grew up in the Toco Hills area, is also the visiting rabbi for Shearith Israel Synagogue in Columbus, Ga., during more normal times.