While the Baltic Region prides itself on the excellent community and regional camps that are offered to the youth, young adults and families, these opportunities have largely not been available for the elderly.
The dire economic situation of the region has meant that many elderly who survive on meager state pensions are reliant on the humanitarian assistance that American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee provides through its local Jewish communities. Were it not for the help that JDC provides, they would be forced to make the choice between paying for medicine, food or utilities.
Their income simply cannot cover all these necessary expenses that people in Western countries often take for granted. While the help they receive enables them to survive with dignity, a large population of elderly in the Baltic Region has not had the chance to leave the city for a weekend holiday for more than 20 years.
Many of the elderly also come from very small Jewish communities, former shtetls where there is not much, if any, Jewish life. Therefore their excitement was high when a Golden Age Camp, especially for the community’s’ oldest members, took place this year from March 28 until April 1 in the historic town of Trakai, Lithuania.
The camp was organized by JDC together with the local Jewish communities and the welfare center staff in all three Baltic communities. There were some 200 participants from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania; the average age of the participants was 74, but there were those a little younger and some 90 and older who participated in the camp. The camp took place at an excellent facility and was a combination of spa activities, lectures on different Jewish topics, singing, Israeli dancing, art and table games. The participants enjoyed the array of options and the opportunity to rest, learn and interact with one another.
The mornings began early with gym classes and breakfast, and the choices throughout the day kept everyone very busy. The participants came together each evening for a special program. A Klezmer concert, Kabbalat Shabbat and disco bowling were some of the activities that took place throughout the camp. The participants thoroughly enjoyed the cultural, Jewish and fitness programs as well as the opportunity to gather and get to know one another.
The participants, the staff, the local communities, and JDC are deeply grateful to the Jewish Federation of Jacksonville for supporting such a wonderful and important initiative, which everyone hopes will become a tradition.
Thank you for making all of this possible and for bringing warmth and optimism to hundreds of people!