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Lines of Communication

Aiding the Elderly

Dear LILITH:

Paula Gantz gave a moving portrait of the difficulties of being old and female in “Our Golden Years” [LILITH #10]. JASA (Jewish Association for Services for the Aged) provides a number of services—in addition to those she mentioned—to help relieve that burden.

Twenty-one JASA senior citizens centers in New York City and on Long Island provide kosher hot lunches and a range of social, recreational, educational and cultural activities. Twenty-one JASA social service offices assist older adults—mostly women—with government entitlements, personal problems, home care, and health-care counseling. JASA also maintains several Meals-on-Wheels programs; a home attendant program; services for recent Soviet Jewish immigrants; a recreation program serving 40 senior clubs (many located in synagogues); and a public affairs program.

JASA manages five (not two) apartment complexes for the elderly—housing more than 2,000 older tenants. Next year, JASA will construct a sixth building, at Cooper Square in Manhattan; names are now being accepted for the mailing list for applications.

To meet the needs of a more highly educated older population, we recently organized “Sundays at JASA,” a series of classes, lectures, and concerts geared to the needs and interests of older adults; a new series begins in October.

As required by the government agencies that fund many of our programs, we keep careful statistics, from which we know that each year we serve more than 50,000 older adults and their families—20 percent of the 225,000 Jewish elderly in metropolitan New York.

In 1982, JASA received $1.64 million from Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of Greater New York, which in addition sponsored many other programs for the elderly in the metropolitan area: several geriatric facilities, senior citizen camps, family social services, and senior clubs at local YM-YWHA’s and Jewish community centers.

Ann Wolfe’s claim that the community does not have an extensive outreach program is unfounded. Both JASA and Federation place information regularly in the local and Jewish press, and in the city-wide media, and make it available regularly to all synagogues; adult Jewish organizations; senior citizens’ service centers and organizations; city officials; and police precincts.

It is undoubtedly true that more needs to be done. As the number and proportion of elderly increase in the coming years, Americans will have to pay greater attention to their needs—with more nursing homes, more home care, more senior centers, more funds. After all, “their” needs will someday be our own.

by Miriam Koren JASA New York NY

Dear LILITH:

I am a lawyer who has specialized in the legal problems of the elderly for many years. Your timely article on older women neglected the central role legal issues often play in the lives of the elderly.

Low-income elderly people are dependent for their very subsistence upon a complex set of inter-related public benefits. The article reflected a common problem of misinformation about the laws governing them. A distinction must be drawn between SSI, which provides a minimum income for poor elderly, disabled and blind people; and Medicaid, which pays medical providers to service eligible persons. At this time, $1,500 is the resource limit for one person for eligibility for the Federal Supplemental Security Income Program, not Medicaid. In New York State, at this time, the resource limit for Medicaid is $2,600 for a household of one person, and $4,050 for a household of two. There is also a burial fund of $1,500 allowable per person, and another $1,500 for the spouse.

Income levels for both SSI and Medicaid vary from state to state. In New York at this time, the Medicaid income level for one person is $370 and for two $529. SSI income levels are respectively $367.51 and $525.88. Elderly recipients may “spend down” their “surplus income” and obtain Medicaid coverage, if they are resource-eligible. This option is not applicable to the SSI Program.

by Hilary J. Sohmer Legal Services for the Elderly in Queens Rego Park NY

New Get

Dear LILITH:

Your article on the plight of those unable to obtain a get when a spouse refuses to cooperate was extremely interesting and informative [Kol Ishah, #10]. However, it failed to mention the Bet Din that was established by the Reconstructionis Rabbinical Association in January 1980. A woman may now come before the rabbi for the divorce. The three-member rabbinical court has since performed many Jewish divorces in a solemn ceremony that lasts approximately 20 minutes.

by Marcia Gitomer Reconstructionist Rabbinical College Wyncote PA

See this issue’s Tsena—Rena columns for an update on the situation of Jewish women seeking religious divorces — Eds.

Guilt by Association

Dear LILITH:

I must admit to being more than a little troubled by Annette Daum’s article on “The Jewish Stake in Abortion Rights” [LILITH #8]. What disturbs me is the approach introducing the topic, which lumps together “the Catholic hierarchy” in “unholy alliance” with every far right and anti-Semitic group from the Liberty Lobby to the American Nazi Party.

The article is admittedly a clever one, if ominous in its probable impact. The alleged linkages between Catholics and extremists are established by insinuation and innuendo rather than direct affirmation. But its basic message, unless my “Catholic paranoia” is getting the best of me, seems clear enough: there is a terrible conspiracy against Jews and all decent values going on in this country and “the Catholic hierarchy” is a key actor in it. The conspiracy motif is even buttressed with a striking chart of the “interlocking directorates” engaged in the “crusade.”

The terminology here is invidious, playing as it does on deep fears within the Jewish community, and resulting in a serious misrepresentation of the role of the Catholic community within American society. The Bishops’ Conference has not taken positions which are anti-labor, anti-ERA anti-civil rights, etc. It is not a part of the “Moral Majority” or any other right-wing group, despite a similarity of views on one or two specific issues.

What is needed in the abortion debate is clarification of the issues and actual positions of both the Catholic and Jewish communities in dialogue with each other. What we have in this article, sadly, reads more like the first installment of a new version of an old book: “The Protocols on the Hierarchs of Roman Catholicism.”

by Eugene J. Fisher Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Inter religious Affairs National Conference of Catholic Bishops Washington DC

Dear LILITH:

I was enormously moved by the report on “Copenhagen: One Year Later” (issue #8) It added enormously to the value of a chapter in my forthcoming book on The Female World From a Global Perspective. I am also exploring ways of dealing with the kind of behavior that took place at that Conference. In the meanwhile, best wishes for the success of your important journal.

by Jessie Bernard Washington DC

Lilith In Class

Dear LILITH:

I have just completed a syllabus for a Women’s Studies course I am teaching. I was amazed in retrospect at the obvious: I couldn’t have planned the class as effectively without LILITH. I write to say thank you and to encourage you to put some of the articles together as a volume. They are wonderful.

by Riv-Ellen Prell Department of Anthropology University of Minnesota Minneapolis MN

Dear LILITH:

Keep up the good work! Rural Jewish women like myself really appreciate the input, contact and stimulation of a feminist-oriented Jewish magazine. Perhaps one day you could run an article on Jewish women who live in rural, non-Jewish areas.

by Janet Tatz Boulder MT

Dear LILITH:

On behalf of Mrs. Marilyn Dunn’s 4th Grade Class of Temple Beth El Religious School, we would like to make a donation to your organization from our Keren Ami Fund. We hope that this will help you continue to do the important work you are doing. Carolyn Aibel, Mark Bloom, Melinda Bob, Robyn Cort, Debra Ehrenberg, Brad B. Engel, Michael Fehder, Melissa Geschwind, Alicia Glickman, Jill Portugal, Scott Rosenblaum, David Schreiber, Natalie Triefler Closter NJ

Know The Enemy

Dear LILITH:

A national network TV morning show features an interesting and heartwarming story from Japan…. A would-be journalist and/or novelist (male) is in need of a means of livelihood and starts a bagel business. His young Japanese wife is quoted as thinking him “crazy” but remains nonetheless at his side faithfully each early a.m. to help him before going off to her regular job.

The man then says, “My Mom says you wouldn’t find a Jewish Princess to do this.” The Prince has spoken.

It can be presumed that this human interest piece has been edited, but the master media moguls have clearly chosen to retain this telling commentary.

Why am I sharing this with you? Who else would better understand my sadness and frustration at this manifestation of ignorance? Thanks for your ears, eyes, and hearts.

by Miriam Jaffe San Francisco CA

Dear LILITH:

When my husband saw your ad he thought he would surprise me with a subscription to your magazine. However when I received your gift card in advance of the magazine I already knew that I couldn’t quite enjoy your views. First and foremost, I am Mrs. Charles J. Cohl—a title that I have enjoyed for almost 35 years with no difficulty—I resent being called Ms.

Your magazine [#10] finally arrived this past Friday and really spoiled my Shab-bos just looking at the cover and the contents—why do you call it a Jewish women’s magazine? From what little I glanced at you seem to want to be Jewish men.

As for sexism in the schools, it is really a breath of fresh air to see young girls attending school dressed modestly and properly rather than trying to look like boys and wearing tight jeans. I also find the way most women dress to be obnoxious. What if for the sake of true equality men started to dress like women?

Regarding women’s place in the synagogue I find that I always kvell when my kohanim husband or sons get an aliyah; after all there are so many things that I can do that they can’t.

As for your article [on Jewish lesbians], I never saw a Jewish Lesbian/ I hope I never see one/ But if I ever see one (G-d forbid)/I would rather see than be one.

You are all obviously intelligent young women—too bad your talents could not be used to further the beauty of a truly observant home. So sorry that most of you are having trouble finding yourselves.

by Estelle G. Cohl Upper Grand view NY