Grant targeting spiritual dimensions of aging

The Helen Bader Foundation in Milwaukee has awarded $74,215 to the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Hiddur: The Center for Aging and Judaism to support the training of clergy and others who work with elders.

The grant will fund a three-year pilot initiative to develop and deliver training to clergy, chaplains and human-service professionals who can help elders lead more spiritually vibrant lives. Ultimately, the project goal is to reach 175 professionals in four significant Jewish communities.

“We believe there is a compelling need to train professionals to spiritually inspire, engage and sustain Jewish elders, and that Hiddur has the expertise, relationships and vision to undertake this mission,” said Rabbi Dan Ehrenkrantz, president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.

Rabbi Dayle Friedman, director of Hiddur, said clergy and other professionals need high quality training to adequately serve the growing number of elders in their communities. “Most rabbis and communal professionals enter the landscape of a graying Jewish community without a single course or internship on aging to prepare them,” she said.

Over the next three years, Hiddur will assemble a team of five trainers who will collaborate to develop curricula and methods. The team will train professionals in four major Jewish communities — Philadelphia, New York, northern New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. The workshops are scheduled to begin in fall 2007 and finish in spring 2010.

“We hope and expect to help professionals to attune to the spiritual needs of elders and their families; gain specific skills and programming ideas; and increase their familiarity with Jewish teachings and tools for aging,” Friedman said.

The Helen Bader Foundation Inc. supports innovative projects and programs that advance the well being of people and promote successful relationships with their families and communities. The Hiddur grant was one of 88, totaling $3.2 million, the foundation awarded in May.

Hiddur, the youngest of RRC’s three academic centers, was founded in 2003 and is dedicated to bringing joy and dignity to later life. It recently piloted Shades of Gray, a monthly seminar on the spiritual dimensions of aging for rabbis, cantors, chaplains, Jewish communal professionals and rabbinical students from all four major movements.

RRC is the rabbinical training institution of the Reconstructionist movement. The rabbinical school prepares men and women for leadership and service in synagogues, universities, campus Hillel programs, social service agencies, homes for the elderly and chaplaincy.