Lunch and Learn series provides food for thought

The Bay Area's cultural diversity has come to the Montefiore Senior Center. Feeding the mind as well as the body, the "Lunch and Learn" series held at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco sponsors monthly presentations on various cultures accompanied by kosher lunches reflecting the culture.

The idea is "to tie the program into the kosher meal program," which serves lunch to seniors daily except Saturdays, said Linda Skolnik, senior service coordinator.

"Lunch and Learn," which began in January, is the brainchild of the senior-run program committee at the Montefiore Center. Its chairwoman, Ilse Triger, sees the program as a way to give seniors a taste of other cultural traditions.

The lectures and lunches "have been very well received," she said. "We have a lot of people who don't belong to Montefiore sitting in on the lectures."

The first program honored Martin Luther King Jr. with a viewing of the film "Blacks and Jews" and a discussion with its Bay Area producers. African-American seniors were invited to join the Montefiore members for a lunch featuring traditional dishes from the American South.

In February, the seniors celebrated the Chinese New Year with a Chinese lunch, followed by a talk by Linda Wong on the historical Jewish community in China and the treatment of older people in China and the United States.

"Jews of Ireland" was the topic for March. The seniors were served corned beef and cabbage and listened to Professor Steven Arkin of San Francisco State University speak on Jewish contributions to Ireland's history, literature and politics.

April's celebration of Israeli Independence Day featured the Peninsula-based Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group. The guests — an American Jew, an Israeli and a Palestinian — spoke of their efforts to communicate on a personal level.

The Cinco de Mayo celebration featured "The Art and Life of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera." Kahlo was half-Jewish.

Gladys Wagman, a San Franciscan who has attended most of the programs, finds them "mentally stimulating."

"I like the fact that they are reaching out to different kinds of people," she said.

The multicultural theme will be replaced by another theme at the end of 1998. Triger said that "Jews in the arts" might be one possibility.

Upcoming programs include: June 24, "Venice: the First Ghetto"; July 8, "The Jews of Salonika"; Aug. 11, "The Jewish Immigrant Experience."