Lectures open Reutlinger home, residents to wider community

Dorothy Millman is haunted by a visit she once made to a home for the elderly in New York.

"I met a woman who hadn't had a visitor in 25 years," said Millman. "That sad image always stayed with me."

Millman moved with her husband Sidney to Rossmoor in Walnut Creek seven years ago, to be near family. And immediately, they looked for ways to become involved in the Contra Costa community.

The Reutlinger Community for Jewish Living turned out to be one way. Thanks to their generosity, the home in Danville is offering a lecture series not only to its residents, but also to the community at large. This way, residents can stay informed as well as in touch with their neighborhood.

The lecture series began in November, when a docent from San Francisco's Asian Art Museum discussed "Secrets of the Forbidden City." There will be six lectures a year, which are free and open to the public. Scheduling depends on the availability of speakers.

"We wanted a way to get the home together with the community so residents don't see the same faces all day, every day. We also wanted the community to see how beautiful the new home is," Millman said.

The Millmans thought a lecture series might help relieve the feelings of isolation and loneliness that some seniors experience. She said the first two lectures were well-attended and she was pleased at the amount of interest generated judging by the number of questions that followed the presentations.

Harriet Finck, director of development and community relations, agrees. "Working with the Millmans has been exciting," she said. Reutlinger has mailed publicity on the series to the Jewish communal organizations, synagogues and sisterhoods in the East Bay. Finck noted that the home also has a large collection of Judaica, which she hopes the community will take time to visit.

Residents express excitement about these new opportunities for learning and seeing new faces. Max and Sylvia Porton, 93 and 89 respectively, have attended past lectures.

"We enjoy it very much," said Sylvia Porton. "We don't drive anymore and so don't get out in the world as we once did. This is a great opportunity for community contact."

Resident Inez Lande, 87, agreed: "It's wonderful to share these learning experiences with the rest of the world. I look forward to attending the future lectures."

Last week, Larry Tye, author and longtime Boston Globe reporter spoke about his new book "Homelands: Portraits of the New Jewish Diaspora." Earlier this week, Asian Art Museum docent Therese Schoofs was scheduled to speak on "Jade: Stones of Heaven."

On Sunday, Feb. 10, Victor Bogart, Oregon gerontologist and octogenarian, will speak on "Six Steps for Shifting Gears on the Senior Highway." He is the author of "Assumptions: How they Control Your Life and What to do About Them." A 6:30 p.m. reception will be followed by the 7 p.m. talk.