"Even in old age they shall bring forth fruit,
They shall be full of vigor and strength"
Psalm 92

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Senior- citizen group: SIMJA

In February 1996, in response to and in recognition of the special needs of the Cuban-Jewish communities growing elderly population, the first senior-citizen group was created. The main goal was to encourage and to enable the older adults to play an active role by sharing their memories, common interests and concerns, as well. At its beginning, only a dozen participants attended the monthly meetings on a regular basis. Since then, however, the number of SIMJA group members has grown to around seventy.

Their first outing was to the Botanical Garden of Havana were the participants decided to name the recently organized group. They wanted to find a short word, but a meaningful one. During the discussion, the word SIMJA (Joy in Hebrew) emerged. To this day, this is the main characteristic of the SIMJA group. Ever since, this joyful and friendly atmosphere has been the corner stone for the members of the group.

The activities of the group whether they are indoor or outdoor activities (birthday parties, outings, guess- speaker presentations, workshops, etc.) are always interactive and promote a good opportunity for the SIMJA members to have a social life essential to health and their emotional well-being. Each monthly meeting is focused on a specific topic related to Jewish traditions, Jewish holidays, and/or personal anecdotes and/or any other issue that either bring the participants together, and/or may contribute to enhancing their lifestyle.

In 1997, the first-three-day camp, MAJANE, was held. Initially, only members from the Havana-community centers attended. Subsequently, it was extended nationwide. The short-term goal was to strengthen communal bonds among all the seniors of the Cuban Jewish community, and its long-term goal was to promote the expansion of other older adult groups in all the Jewish communities of Cuba.

In each MAJANE, there is a central topic that deals with interesting issues that may help the elderly to cope better with their daily life, such as: What is the position of the older adults in the community? What lifestyle changes are happening to me and how should I face them? Why should I be thankful for in my life? and others.

In 1999, a health-fitness program was added to the group activities. Sponsored by the Joint Distribution Committee, on a biweekly basis, the participants perform exercises led by a trained expert. This program helps the participants to improve the quality of their lives. It promotes the concept and importance of keeping fit to live a better life in their golden years.

At present the original SIMJA group keeps growing in the number of its members, and its activities are still full of joy, happiness and love. In the near future, we hope there may be a SIMJA group in all the Jewish communities of Cuba to offer the elderly their own space and time to share their interests, needs and hopes.

Lourdes Albo
Coordinator and founder of the SIMJA group

You may contact:

Lourdes Albo lalbo@infomed.sld.cu
Kenia Levy