At home with ideas

Members of SAJE (Senior Activities in a Jewish Environment) participate in an “Antiques Roadshow”-style event. Photograph by Sarah Poland. Courtesy Community Synagogue of Rye.

Most senior citizens want to enjoy their golden years in their homes.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy cultivating lives outside the home as well.

“Our ‘Lunch and Learn’ is truly a special program that the seniors at our synagogue just love,” says Sarah Poland, coordinator of the Community Synagogue of Rye’s Senior Activities in a Jewish Environment initiative (SAJE).

The program was started 13 years ago by Iris and David Sampliner, who were also the original funders. The couple felt there was nothing for the elderly members of the synagogue to do in their spare time that was interesting and educational, Poland says.  The idea was born and saw fruition with the additional help of Rhoda Fiddler.

Today “Lunch and Learn” meets twice a week and features lectures by an array of speakers, including WAG publisher/creative director Dee DelBello and editor-in-chief Georgette Gouveia.

“We…usually draw 20 to 25 people to each one,” Poland says. “We are proud of the diversity and we have people from the arts, education, the business world, Broadway, writers, community activists. You name a category and we have probably had someone representing it.”

But it’s not just the minds of the listeners that are being sharpened, she adds. The “Lunch and Learn” events have gained a reputation for being sometimes challenging to the speakers.

“We have a very savvy congregation. They are up on everything and know what they are talking about when they interact with our speakers. Some speakers have even confessed to being a bit leery of getting in over their heads when some of our members speak up. We try to maintain a very high quality of speakers and so far have been able to do so. The back and forth is a lot of fun for everyone.”

“Lunch and Learn” is temporarily being held at Atria Rye Brook, a senior living community, because the synagogue is under renovation. “The people at Atria have been very kind and helpful and things have gone smoothly,” Poland says.

She believes “Lunch and Learn” has been a success because of the close-knit nature of the synagogue community as well as the interesting lineup of speakers. “No one is ever bored or boring,” she says. “They are lively gatherings and that’s why people keep coming back for more.”

For information on upcoming lectures, contact or 914-967-6262.

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