Rabbi to probe nexus of healthy aging, Judaism

Rabbi Richard Address
Rabbi Richard Address

Rabbi Richard F. Address, author of “Seekers of Meaning: Baby Boomers, Judaism, and the Pursuit of Healthy Aging,” will bring his quest to Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging on Tuesday, April 23. In a free public lecture at 7 p.m., Address — a baby boomer himself — will speak on “A Long and Winding Road: The Revolution in Longevity and its Implication for a Jewish Community in Transition.”

“The reason why I’m doing this,” Address told the AJP, “is the last couple of years I’ve observed personally and professionally that our generation expects to live at least two more decades. The spiritual question is ‘What do you do with this time?’”

Jewish baby boomers who retired in their early 60s — most are college educated and many have attended graduate school — may now be climbing Machu Picchu or going to Elderhostel at the University of Arizona, he said. But what comes next?

“Life span has doubled in the United States in the 20th century,” says Address, but in aging “health is always a wild card.” The “new” Jewish older adult must also deal with issues of medical technology and intergenerational care-giving, he says.

Another issue for the Jewish community is that “Jews in their 60s retreat from organized religion a lot more,” because their children are grown and Bar or Bat Mitzvahs have already taken place, says Address. “Congregations focus more on young families.”

But “baby boomers are creating new rituals. [Some] are searching for serious Jewish study,” says Address, challenging Jewish institutions in a new way. “Judaism is a holistic medical model, which focuses on health and wellness.”

Address will discuss what Judaism brings to the conundrum of aging, noting that around 20 percent of the Jewish community’s population is over 65. Meanwhile, he says, if someone calls a friend an “older adult,” that person will say, “I’m not an older adult. That’s my aunt Martha who’s 91. She’s at Handmaker. I’m not an older adult.”

Address serves as senior rabbi at Congregation M’Kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, N.J. He assumed this pulpit in July 2011 after leaving the Union for Reform Judaism where he served as specialist for caring community and family concerns.

This event is sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s Strategic Planning Initiative, Handmaker and the Tucson Board of Rabbis, and is cosponsored by Jewish Family & Children’s Services and its Jewish Elder Access program, and the Tucson Jewish Community Center.

For more information, contact Brenda Landau, JFSA vice president of community planning and Women’s Philanthropy, at 577-9393 or blandau@jfsa.org.