Late last month, Handmaker finally received guidance from the Arizona Health Department to begin to loosen some of the restrictions that residents have been living with for months. What a relief! And, what a blessing that this happened just in time for Passover! This meant that we could have a communal Passover Seder, in the Great Room, although still six-feet apart. While we could not have guests join us, those residents who attended enjoyed the freedom of celebrating this festival of freedom together. Led by our very own Rabbi Richard Safran, residents dipped parsley, sang familiar songs, ate the round traditional shmura matzah provided by Rabbi Shemtov, and enjoyed a delicious festive Passover meal provided by the Handmaker kitchen.
These loosened restrictions also meant that residents could once again have group activities, watch movies together, eat in the dining room, and most important for many…have family and friends visit. For now, these visits are scheduled during specific times and are limited in number. Visitors are screened for COVID symptoms and exposure, and have to visit with residents in common areas or out on the patio with masks. But, and this was a big surprise, they are allowed to hug and touch if the resident has been vaccinated! Since nearly all of our residents are fully vaccinated, you can imagine that there has been a whole lot of hugging going on.
This new guidance also means that residents in the Rubin Assisted Living Neighborhood at Handmaker are able to have a Shabbat Dinner together again. We had our first communal Shabbat dinner together since November on April 9th. Although we were still 6 feet apart, we felt closely connected as Rabbi Richard Safran led the blessings over the candles, wine and bread. Since we were also commemorating Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) that week, Rabbi Safran led us in a beautiful memorial service outside on the patio before the Shabbat dinner. It was a lovely night, and despite the sadness of what we were remembering, we were so happy to be together.
Due to COVID restrictions, the Handmaker Beauty Salon had been closed since March of 2020. Many residents have been unintentionally growing their hair out all that time, including many of the men. After all this time, it is finally open again! Our fully vaccinated beautician, Bethany Palmer, is booked for the next several weeks with long overdue haircuts and styling, manicures and pedicures, and many other beauty services. The residents have missed her and she has missed them.
We look forward to soon welcoming more of the community back into Handmaker, and getting closer to normal.
Nanci Levy is the Community Outreach Coordinator at Handmaker Jewish Services for Aging