It’s often said that those of us who are raising children and taking care of aging parents are in “The Sandwich Generation.” The “sandwich” is an interesting concept—being squeezed between two things that compete for our time and energy. But I have a different way of thinking about it. Being sandwiched is like being hugged by what we love. Yes, our families take our time and resources, but they give so much back.
As I packed lunches for my kids this morning—putting peanut butter & jelly sandwiches into their lunchboxes—I thought about times I’ve felt like the PB&J in the middle of those sandwiches: needing to be “sticky” enough to hold the family together through daily life and unique challenges. The sandwich generation is the sweet filling that holds it all together, a role that is both difficult and rewarding.
A lot of the work we do at Jewish Federation & Family Services also takes on that kind of responsibility. We serve people of all ages, but especially focus on being the connector between Jewish life and our community’s youngest and oldest members. We engage our children in Jewish experiences through programs like PJ Library, in which more than 2,000 children receive a Jewish book monthly to share with their family, and by giving grants to congregations for religious school and to Jewish camps for fun and educational summer experiences.
We engage young adults in Jewish life with unique programs that build Jewish identity and life-long friendships through NextGen, our premier young adult engagement program. And we send couples beginning their life together on Honeymoon Israel, an eight-day experience in Israel during which they will explore big questions of why being Jewish matters and how to raise a Jewish family.
JFFS also cares for our community’s older members, who are often our most vulnerable population, through a variety of services and social opportunities. There’s one particular group of older community members that we care for that I’ve thought a lot about lately. It is the 300 Holocaust survivors living in Orange County who are our communal “grandparents.”
They are keepers of our traditions, teachers of our younger generations, and a key link to our Jewish past and rich heritage of European Jewish life. Our responsibility is to honor these members of our extended family by ensuring they can age with dignity. That may mean reducing isolation through social gatherings; providing funding for food, medicine, or home care; offering compassionate case management; or arranging for transportation to doctor visits and the grocery store. For some, it may simply mean being here in case they need us.
Orange County’s Holocaust survivors will be a focus for us this year even more than in the past, as we work to meet increasing needs as they age. We are in the middle, the filling that connects these members of our collective “family” to the Jewish community.
It is a huge responsibility and a true privilege to be “sandwiched” in the middle between the younger and the older generations. It means being part of the continuum of life. Sandwiches are sustenance, and that is sweet indeed.
P.S. As part of our efforts to raise awareness of and funds for the needs of Holocaust survivors living in Orange County, Jewish Federation & Family Services is sponsoring the Pacific Symphony’s performance of Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín on April 16, 2019, thanks to a bequest from the Albert Weissman and Rhoda Yvette Weissman Estate. Don’t miss this powerful concert-drama that pays tribute to the courageous Jewish prisoners at the Terezín concentration camp who used artistic expression as a form of resistance. You can purchase your tickets here.