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June 24, 1988 - Image 129

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-06-24

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A Toast
To Jewish Living

't '0° Respect For The Elderly n Jewish Tradition


When the Babylonians under
Nebuchadnezzar overthrew
Jerusalem in the Sixth Century
before the Common Era, they
destroyed the Holy Temple and
drove the People Israel into exile.
But the devastation and degradation
did not end with these disasters.
The biblical Scroll of Lamentations
records the many tragedies and
tribulations which were inflicted
upon Am Yisrael. Among the
sources of sadness, sorrow and
suffering enumerated were: ". . . to
the elders they were not gracious
... the elders have not been
respected ... The elders are gone
from the gate ..." (4:16; 5:12,14).
The reference to "the gate" is
significant. In ancient times, it was
the practice for communal judges
and leaders to sit at or near the
main gateway of the city. Included
among these ranks were the older
members of the town, the elders (in
Hebrew, "Z'keinim"), who were
cherished as an invaluable human
resource. Blessed with length of
days, they also were gifted with a
wealth of experience.
By their very presence they
served as advisers, guides and
teachers for the community. They
received respect and regard for this
reason and also because, since
almost everyone hoped to grow old,
each person set the example of how
he/she wished to be treated in later
years by his/her actions toward the
"elders." Ben Sirach, a Jewish
writer in the Second Century B.C.E.,
summarized the matter in these
words, "Dishonor not the old, we all
shall be numbered among them"
Among the Jewish people,
practical concerns about the older
population assumed an added
dimension. The Torah (Leviticus
Continued on L-2

Rabbi Lane Steinger is the spiritual leader of
Temple Emanu-El in Oak Park.

Aging: A Challenge For Our Times


Aging is the greatest challenge
of our times. More has been written
about aging in the past 30 years
than in the past 3,000. Americans
born today have a life expectancy of
74.9 years, about 28 years longer
than in 1900. Four in ten Americans
now 65 will celebrate their 80th
birthday. In 2020, when the huge
baby boom generation peaks at 65,
one in every five Americans will be
a senior citizen.
But who is old and what is old
age? If you are near 70, jog, travel,
enjoy sex and drive a car, are you

"old"? Many researchers today are
re-evaluating earlier findings,
questioning whether some
conditions thought to be
characteristic of old age are, in fact,
due to deprivations of the
generation we now see as "old."
On the other hand today's 30
and 40 year olds are better
educated, better fed, better
exercised and more health
conscious than ever before. Their
later years may be entirely different.
The degree of well-being, not
chronological age, is the new

Aging is a normal process. It is
not a disease. It begins at birth and
continues until death. Changes do
occur as one ages, at a different
pace and with different
consequences for each and every
human being.
One of the newer theories to
emerge is the relationship between
environment, age-related sensory
losses and the behavior of older
people. Our understanding of these
relationships can lead to adaptation
of our own behavior, of our homes
and those of our older relatives and
Continued on L-3

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