KleinLife has long been a central pillar for Jewish life in the Greater Philadelphia region. Based in the Northeast, the organization has adapted to the ever-changing needs of a community in constant transformation.
As a result, Jewish Federation-supported KleinLife is now one of the largest, most impactful senior centers in our region, an accomplishment that is being recognized nationwide: KleinLife is the recent recipient of a historic $150,000 grant from Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) for benefit care for local Holocaust survivors. The organization also received the prestigious Barra Award from the Barra Foundation in recognition of its innovative approach to social services and community building.
“KleinLife emerged in a neighborhood with rapidly changing demographics,” said Andre Krug, president and CEO of KleinLife. “We’re merging with it.” The center is now home to a community that’s both aging and increasingly multicultural: It contains the largest concentration of immigrants in Philly, with more than 40 different countries represented. It’s also home to the majority of our local area Holocaust survivors. More than 400 local survivors are connected to KleinLife programs.
To provide first-rate services for an expansive and diverse community, KleinLife revamped its programming to ensure that every need would be met with efficiency and effectiveness. To better serve KleinLife’s 6,500 older adults, the organization developed a sophisticated network of programs designed for people to maintain their independence. These range from nutrition services to fitness programs and medical services to educational programs.
To connect with new immigrant families, KleinLife opened a special Sunday Jewish program for children whose parents had come from former Soviet Union countries and weren’t connected to their Jewish faith. The program allows for children to bring Judaism into their homes and has been a huge success: There are currently 75 children involved. “The program appeals to people on the intellectual level in terms of how to accept Judaism,” Krug explained. “It’s more logical and scientific than religious, which makes it easier for these parents to understand.”
There are still plenty of challenges in connecting local immigrants to their Jewish faith. The Russian community, in particular, has successfully adapted to American society but not as well into their local Jewish community. To better appeal to Russian families, KleinLife encourages residents to explore their non-denominational services and to understand and connect with the concept of Jewish Pride.
“To bring people along for this Jewish journey is not a simple task; it’s a combination of things,” Krug said. “You don’t have to be Orthodox to be proud of Albert Einstein. This is what we teach the children and the children bring it home to say, ‘We need to be proud of our roots. We need to be proud of what we are and what we do.’”
Many in KleinLife’s Russian community are also Holocaust survivors, so not only did they survive the war they also endured an anti-Semitic environment in the Soviet Union. The center already provides exemplary programs for survivors who sustained a trauma as children, and more programs are being introduced that will be fulfilling for Russian residents. The grant from JFNA will help provide for social workers and additional cultural programs that are a little more Russian style.
The grant is incredibly meaningful for Krug: “I’ve always felt that we need to provide more services to the Holocaust survivors, because how many are left? The most important thing we can do is to make their lives more enjoyable.”
Want to see what KleinLife is like for yourself? Swing by on April 29th at 12:00 p.m. for Israel 70: Celebration with Children of the World. The event is an exciting opportunity for different groups that are involved with KleinLife to show their support for Israel. This will include children from the acclaimed Sunday Jewish program as well as its ballet studio, dance studio, and Indian, Korean, Brazilian and Ukrainian groups, among others. For more details, visit kleinlife.org/events/israel70.
Events Celebrating Israel’s 70th Anniversary
Here are some local events to honor the founding of Israel.
The ultimate birthday party for Israel’s 70th.
A free celebration packed with cooking demos, wine and olive oil tastings, Israeli dancing, Gaga courts, short Israeli films, a kids’ area featuring theater and Israeli-made toys, a marine science exhibit, craft vendors, local music and the hit Israeli cover band Capaim.
Sunday, May 6, 2018 | 12:00 p.m.
Event Center at the Valley Forge Casino Resort
Free and open to the public
David Broza: Live in Concert
Hosted by Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, singer-songwriter David Broza will treat us to a very special performance for Israel’s birthday, delighting listeners with his famously charismatic and dynamic style.
Sunday, May 6, 2018 | 7:00 p.m.
Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El
For more information, contact Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El at 610.649.5300.
One Song with ARTolerance
Israeli-born Philadelphia Orchestra musicians Udi Bar-David (cello) and Nitzan Haroz (trombone) join with Mizrahi-Ashkenazi vocalist Rabbi Yosef Goldman and Lebanese-American percussionist Joseph Tayoun for an evening of music that joyously reflects Israel’s diversity.
Wednesday, May 9, 2018 | 8:00 p.m.
Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel
For more information, contact Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel at 215.735.5148.
Israeli Flag Raising Ceremony
On this day in 1948, Israel declared its independence. In commemoration of this important date in Jewish history, join us for a first-time-ever Israeli flag-raising ceremony at City Hall.
Monday, May 14, 2018 | 1:00 p.m.
Philadelphia City Hall, northeast corner at Broad Street and JFK Boulevard
Free and open to the public