Comforting Programs in Farsi

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From left: Rafi Ebrani, Youssef Ohebsion, a personal home health aide and Taylor Herbert, LCSW, director of specialized senior services. (Photography by Steve Toscano)
From left: Rafi Ebrani, Youssef Ohebsion, a personal home health aide and Taylor Herbert, LCSW, director of specialized senior services.
(Photography by Steve Toscano)

The Sid Jacobson JCC is providing programs and services we can understand

By Connie Wasserman

For more than 35 years, the Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center (JCC) has been providing services to the entire North Shore community—from infants to the elderly—from a variety of backgrounds. These programs are often tailored to the specific needs of our residents. Whether to help maintain health and wellness or provide support services, the Sid Jacobson JCC brings a breadth of specialized programs and services to the Great Neck community through synagogue partnerships with Temple Israel, Temple Beth El, Lake Success Jewish Center, Temple Isaiah and the Mashadi Synagogue.

Everyone’s having fun.
Everyone’s having fun.

Always an innovator of programs and services that meet the critical needs of the North Shore community, when studies showed that the elderly on Long Island were the fastest growing segment of the population, the JCC developed an adult day program that, on a weekly basis, serves 150 seniors who are frail and/or memory impaired with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases.

Anticipating the needs of the community, experts from the Sid Jacobson JCC learned that according to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated five million people in the United States currently have Alzheimer’s disease and that number is expected to more than triple to 16 million by 2050. Based on these statistics, most of us will, at the very least, know someone who is caring for someone with memory loss—and the Persian community is no exception.

_DSC2085When the Sid Jacobson JCC was approached by leaders in the Persian community, it began identifying the need, presenting to the community, securing space and obtaining funding.

The community center quickly learned that there was a need to offer special services and support that is culturally comfortable. Although many elders with dementia may speak English, they often revert to their primary language, which in this case is Farsi, making it important to create a program that is culturally sensitive and has Farsi-speaking staff.

Leslie Grama Shapiro, LCSW, program coordinator, and Debra Kalatziadeh
Leslie Grama Shapiro, LCSW, program coordinator, and Debra Kalatziadeh

The team approached SHAI (Sephardic Heritage Alliance, Inc.), which provided funding to help launch the project. The team also approached Temple Israel of Great Neck, which is providing space to house the program every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

One evening, the JCC also provided an educational program at the Mashadi Temple, providing information and opportunity for questions led by licensed social workers.

Sabiheh Sameyah with Shelley, a volunteer
Sabiheh Sameyah with Shelley, a volunteer

On September 10, the JCC launched a new program for elders in the Persian community with memory loss. Currently housed at Temple Israel, the program is culturally sensitive, providing music and discussions in both English and Farsi, kosher food from a local Persian restaurant and professionally trained staff. The program provides a wonderful social opportunity that is safe, so family caregivers can tend to their normal daily activities for several hours each week.

Another staggering health concern stems from the statistic that an estimated one in three Americans will be diagnosed with cancer. With the many types of cancer that can strike anyone at any age, it’s likely that each of us will know someone with the illness.

Maintaining optimum health and receiving emotional support as well as knowledge about the resources available to patients and their families is crucial. To help make the journey a little easier, the Sid Jacobson JCC began the Nancy Marx Strength to Strength Cancer Wellness Program more than 10 years ago. The program has successfully provided support to hundreds of people on the North Shore at its East Hills and Brookville campuses.

Participants are enjoying lunch from Shop Delight.
Participants are enjoying lunch from Shop Delight.

Last year, the JCC was approached by Farangiss Sedaghatpour, a well-known health care practitioner and cancer survivor who wanted to bring the program into Great Neck for the Persian community. Sedaghatpour was concerned that the stigma associated with a cancer diagnosis often prevents members of the community from getting the help and support they need during a very difficult and challenging time.

At a presentation at Temple Hadassah in Great Neck, the Sid Jacobson JCC as well as members of the Persian community spoke about their journeys with cancer. With funding from SHAI, Sid Jacobson JCC cancer specialists are able to provide weekly exercise and discussion groups to survivors and their families at the Great Neck House.

Personalized care overseen by professionals not only in a comfortable setting, but also in a familiar language, is enhancing the lives of Great Neck’s Persian community.

From left: Connie Wasserman, LCSW, associate executive director, and Taylor Herbert, LCSW, director of specialized senior services.
From left: Connie Wasserman, LCSW, associate executive director, and Taylor Herbert, LCSW, director of specialized senior services.

Connie Wasserman, LCSW, is associate executive director of the Sid Jacobson JCC. For additional information about the program for elders in the Persian community with memory loss, contact Taylor Herbert, LCSW, director of Specialized Senior Services at 516-484-1545, extension 114. For more information about the cancer support program, contact Randy Hight, LCSW, certified oncology social worker at 516-484-1545, extension 213. 

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