Elders and day-school kids get twin lessons in outreach

When twins Marissa and Nicole Nett walked through the doors of Santa Rosa's Shalom Home, two 84-year-old residents were absolutely flabbergasted.

Doris Press and her sister, Dorothy Cohen, are also identical twins.

"We never met such girls; they were so beautiful, so sweet, like two china girls. We just fell in love with them," Press said of the younger twins. "They were very shy at first, but once they realized we too were twins, they took to us."

Said Cohen: "They were sweet and darling babies; no pair of twins in the world compares with them."

Marissa and Nicole, along with other second-graders from the Jewish Day School of Sonoma County, visited Shalom Home to become more keenly aware of the needs of the elderly. It worked.

Planned by Ann Kaufman, director of the Shalom Home, and Eric Keitel, director of the school, the November visit was part of an intergenerational program. Pupils from the Jewish day school visited the senior residential home for songs, Shabbat candlelighting and blessings over grape juice and challah.

To promote intergenerational bonds, students were paired with seniors during activities.

Keitel described the entire event as joyous, especially after everyone witnessed two sets of twins from two completely different generations singing in Hebrew.

"The benefits of the intergenerational program are already obvious to parents at the day school. Based on the tenets of tikkun olam [healing the world], tzedakah [charity] and gemilut chasadim [acts of lovingkindness], the school's philosophy is translated beautifully through these visitations," Keitel said.

In exchange, Shalom Home residents are planning a visit to the Jewish day school in the near future to participate in "Welcoming the Shabbat," the school's Friday-afternoon program for students and families.

During their November visit, Marissa and Nicole gave Press and Cohen handmade necklaces, each featuring a Star of David. The children learned how to construct the necklaces in art class. The necklaces now adorn the elder twins' bedside windows.

Andrea Nett said her daughters were amazed to see an identical set of twins from an earlier generation. "Identical twins identify with other identical twins very quickly."

She said her daughters sat on the laps of the two older twin sisters, who hugged and kissed them. And they asked each other lots of questions.

"They didn't want to leave," said Nett.

In December, Shalom Home residents and the second-graders will once again come together, but this time it will be to celebrate an early Chanukah. Her children are already hard at work preparing gifts for their new friends, their mom said. The handcrafted presents are a twin set of Judaic symbols of worship.

"We're making them menorahs — out of clay and paper," Nicole said.

The dual gifts are for a double-special friendship, added Marissa. "We like them because they have loving hearts."