Jewish Caring for Elderly from Argentina to Uruguay and Beyond

June 6, 2012


“Rebeca” is 101 years old but as she pedals away on the elliptical machine at the Jewish home for the elderly in Montevideo, Uruguay, she seems to have the sprightly energy of a woman not a day over 80. Still, the toll of her remarkable life and the growing limitations of aging mean she is no longer able to care for herself. With no family to turn to, Rebeca looked to the Jewish community for support. Like thousands of Jewish elderly seeking living assistance as they age, her prayer was answered.

For the past three years Rebeca has resided at Hogar Israelita Uruguay, the Jewish old age home in Montevideo that ensures members of the local Jewish community can live out their lives with nurture and dignity. Conceived with JDC’s professional council, and modeled on the state-of-the-art LeDor VaDor elderly home built by JDC and the local Jewish community in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the facility provides complete care for its residents.

JDC brings valuable expertise to its work with the elderly in Latin America, built on decades of experience in caring for aging Jews in Israel, the former Soviet Union, and beyond. This expertise is applied to the training of professionals in eldercare, as well as building local capacity and improving the quality of service. Most recently, JDC organized a series of conferences for professionals and nursing home directors from throughout the Latin America. Participants from Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo came together to learn, share best practices, and exchange innovative solutions among their respective institutions.

For Rebeca, the staff’s professionalism and the warmth of the community are what set Hogar Israelita Uruguay apart. “When I was no longer able to fend for myself, it was very important to me to live in a Jewish home. I couldn’t have family nearby so I wanted to have community. It has been an excellent experience for me here.”

Rebeca’s personal story has been filled with trials. She moved to Montevideo from Buenos Aires when she was in her early twenties, married a fellow Sephardi Jew, and gave birth to two children in quick succession. But when her younger daughter was born with micro encephalitis and a host of severe disabilities, Rebecca devoted her life to caring for her child’s unique needs. She tended to her husband’s traditional home and volunteered in her community as President of the Women’s Commission at B’nei B’rith.

After her son married and had kids of his own, he moved his family to Israel, leaving Rebeca alone to care for his ailing sister. But with the passing years, being a sole caretaker proved too much for an aging widow and she used her savings to put her grown daughter into a place that could meet her needs. Unfortunately, by the time Rebeca was 98 she was no longer able to live independently; her son had passed away and the Jewish community was the only place she could turn for help.

“I couldn’t be alone,” she said. “At Hogar Israelita Uruguay I got the assistance I needed.”

Today Rebecca relishes her days with her community. She enjoys literature classes, gymnastics, and the attentiveness of the highly trained staff. “I am almost blind, but people here know I love literature so they read to me. It’s wonderful! The kindness and the compassion of the staff—I couldn’t get that anywhere else.”

Sign Up for JDC Voices Stories