Congratulations to Rabbi Rachel Cowan and the Wise Aging program for selection as one of the most innovative new Jewish programs in the country by Slingshot 2012-2013!
“Old age is not a defeat, but a victory, not a punishment but a privilege. The test of a people is how it behaves toward the old . . . man’s potential for change and growth is much greater than we are willing to admit and old age (can) be regarded not as the age of stagnation but as the age of opportunities for inner growth.” – Abraham Joshua Heschel
The Wise Aging program is unique, important, and meets important psycho-social, spiritual needs of an invaluable but underserved part of our community: the 20% of us who are over 60. Wise Aging serves a new and growing constituency—the active agers, 60 and older, who make up at least 20% of the American Jewish community—by providing Jewish resources and support to live the later years of their prime time and then their elder years with wisdom, spirit, and resilience. They are not only living longer, they are living with the time, energy, experience, and resources to develop and teach wise insights: living with purpose; making healthy choices; finding rich meaning in the face of loss and limitation; addressing the ageism that is rampant in U.S. and Jewish society; taking thoughtful action for social change; cultivating a mature spirituality; and facing illness and death with grace and courage.
The intellectual and spiritual resources needed to engage this audience exist within our tradition, but they need to be tapped and updated with the current, robust research and thinking that are going on outside of the Jewish community. The Institute is well-equipped to do the research, the curriculum development and the community model formation, and to distribute the work through our extensive alumni network of rabbis, educators, lay learners, and social justice activists.
This project serves people who face some of the most important challenges and opportunities of their lifetime: How can they turn fear, dread, and denial of the unknown into hope, curiosity, and wisdom? Loss into opportunity? Loneliness into community? What’s their purpose in life now—whether 60 or 90? They can create new models for aging well. Yet the Jewish community, so focused on youth, provides few educational or spiritual resources for them. It is as if Jewish life—and certainly the capacity for growth and greater commitment—ends after the first third of the life span. Wise Aging can unleash peoples’ capacity to make wisdom a prominent communal value, enrich the Jewish lives of grandchildren, and bolster the impact of hundreds of non-profit organizations.