KleinLife: Center City A Hamish Place for Philadelphia’s Older Adults

Each year at Passover, KleinLife: Center City clients enjoy a seder together.

Nearly every week of the year, a standard meeting space on the second floor of the Jewish Community Services Building in Philadelphia is transformed into a lively hub of activity for older adults. On any given Friday you could find more than 65 people in their 70s, 80s and 90s discussing current events, doing chair exercises, enjoying  a school choir, eating a hot kosher meal or discussing the weekly Torah portion.

It’s all part of KleinLife: Center City, a program of KleinLife supported in part by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. The program, which will mark its six-year anniversary this August,  is open to all people ages 60 and above.  While the majority of clients come from South Philadelphia and Center City, others come from Northeast Philadelphia and other neighborhoods.  Most participants travel to the program, which runs from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., via CCT Connect (paratransit) or SEPTA.

According to Program Director Lynne Ellis, what makes this older adult initiative unique from any others in Center City Philadelphia is the Jewish aspect. “Our members can enjoy a hamish Jewish environment,” Ellis said. “We provide Jewish programming, which is especially  meaningful for those who aren’t able to attend synagogue or connect with other Jewish organizations.  Each week we look forward to Shabbat with our amazing Rabbi Beth Janus. We listen to klezmer music and observe the Jewish holidays together. For some people, this is their only opportunity to connect or reconnect to their Jewish roots.”

A critical piece of the program is the opportunity to socialize. “We want to get people out of their homes,” said Ellis. “For some folks, this may be the only time they actually venture out to spend time with their peers. The interpersonal connections people form are so meaningful. As people age, they begin to lose their friends. This is a wonderful opportunity to make new friends, and people really look forward to it. In fact one week, two women in their 80s reconnected after not having seen each other since high school.”

KleinLife: Center City clients spend time with the Tavlinim “Spice Girls” from the Jewish Federation’s Partnership2Gether community in Israel.

Another key aspect of KleinLife: Center City is the physical support participants receive. In addition to their lunch, people can buy low-cost frozen kosher meals as they are leaving, so that they can eat nutritious meals at home without needing to cook. Additionally, there are regular health screenings and presentations, exercise classes, and discussions to keep attendees’ minds active.

In addition to the support it receives from the Jewish Federation and KleinLife, KleinLife: Center City receives funding from the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, the United Way, the Friends of Stiffel and individual donors. The program is also made possible, according to Ellis, “thanks to an amazing group of volunteers.”

The Jewish Federation supports KleinLife: Center City as part of its work to serve vulnerable community members of all ages and help older adults to age safely and with dignity in their own homes. The program is currently welcoming new participants, and paratransit rides can be arranged for Philadelphia residents 65 and older. If you or someone you know could benefit from the spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical support provided by KleinLife: Center City, or if you are interested in volunteering, please contact Lynne Ellis at 215-832-0539 or [email protected]


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