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ChaiVillageLA: First Jewish Group For Aging in Place

Published on 7/25/2016
 Beverly Hills Courier's Logo
by Laura Coleman 
Gone are the days when retirement meant stopping work at 65, enjoying a few “golden years” of playing, and then passing gently into an elderly goodnight.

Each day more than 10,000 baby boomers in the U.S. turn 70. And many of these Americans are stepping into “encore” careers or finding ways to stay engaged.

“It’s sort of the ‘second coming’ of the people of the 60s generation,” described Marc Freedman, founder of Civic Ventures and

Of course, the reality of time passing means that the body does break down as life goes on. And even though the average life span is 30 years longer than it was a century ago, there does come a time when people must increasingly depend on others.

On Sunday, over 200 people filled the Temple Isaiah sanctuary to celebrate a groundbreaking collaboration between the West L.A. temple and Temple Emanuel to launch the nation’s first synagogue-based “village” where residents can age-in-place.
Rabbi Zoe Klein, Paul Irving, Rabbi Laura Geller, Marc Freedman
Rabbi Zoe Klein, Paul Irving, Rabbi Laura Geller & Marc Freedman
Photo by Barry E. Levine

Funded by a three-year $200,000 “Cutting Edge Grant” from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, ChaiVillageLA is part of a national effort that began in Boston 15 years ago that is redefining what it means to grow older.

“The boomers still have energy, talent, resources and want to put it back into the community,” said Richard Siegel, ChaiVillageLASteering Committee co-chair. “This has the potential to transform the synagogue and Jewish community.”

The village concept offers a creative solution that enables this demographic to continue leading productive, active and engaged lives as they age by supporting each other.

“Our goal is to create a self-governing village supported by Jewish values,” said Temple Isaiah Rabbi Zoë Klein.

The village model emphasizes the provision of supportive services, such as transportation, home maintenance, companionship and health and wellness. ChaiVillageLA also includes member-initiated social, cultural, recreational and educational programs to strengthen the social relationships and community engagement of older adults.

“This is a ground up movement that begins with neighbors creating together both the social capital and social services they need in order to stay in their homes,” described Temple Emanuel Rabbi Emerita Laura Geller.

Freedman, who gave the keynote address at Sunday’s launch for ChaiVillageLA, underscored that extending life without social innovation was a recipe for a dystopian society.

Geller said there were now 200 villages across the nation, with 200 more in development; however, this appears to be the first faith-based village.

“Other communities are watching what we do,” said Geller, who is among the village’s first 135 members. “You know, it takes a village. And here we are.”