I was running a seminar the other week in Miami and gave some examples of how I like to present “the story” of elderly Jews in the former Soviet Union.
I’ve used perfume (the “Red Moscow” perfume, used ubiquitously across the former Soviet Union and frequently used by our elderly women clients), bricks from old buildings, food packages, smart debit cards, alert watches, and more … the idea being that a visual, sensory trigger is far more powerful than just telling a story with photos and a narrative.
But the other day I met a Jewish federation donor who told me that some eight years ago she was with me on a home visit to a Khrushyovka (a low-cost concrete-paneled five-story building from the 1960s, seen all over the former Soviet Union).
She remembered the name of our client, an elderly woman who receives food and medicine and a care giver through our Hesed (welfare distribution) system. She remembered the room in which we sat, and how she felt when she was there and when we walked out.
Why? Because at one point, during the visit, I held her hand and had her run her fingers and palm along the crumbling wall to feel the rot and decay. She said that she never forgot the feeling of the wall … and that was why she never forgot the visit to the woman whose life was saved by Hesed, the Joint and our federations.
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