Who needs gelt when you have Glee: Jewish Home residents are gearing up for their annual Chan

The melodic singing of “You say goodbye, I say Shalom” drifts out of the lounge at the Jewish Home of San Francisco, filling the lobby. The residents’ voices are loud, clear and full of enthusiasm as they rehearse their annual Chanukah show, which this year is a spoof of the hit TV show “Glee.”

Edie Sadewitz, president of the Jewish Home’s residents’ council, is playing a cheerleader in the home’s annual Chanukah show. photo/patricia corrigan

“I like ‘Glee,’ and I’m glad the show inspired us to do this takeoff,” says Edie Sadewitz, 90.

Decked out in a purple tracksuit with “JH” (for Jewish Home) embroidered on the jacket, she will play a cheerleader in the production. Grinning, Sadewitz notes that she usually gets a speaking part in the annual show — perhaps because she is president of the residents’ council.

Two other seniors also have roles as cheerleaders, and two elderly gents will be portraying football players.

The show is titled “Simchat,” which translates to “Joyous,” which is a takeoff on “Glee.” One performance will be free and open to the public — at 2 p.m. Dec. 5 (the fourth night of Chanukah) in the Jewish Home’s Frank Family Lounge. In addition to singing and dancing, the program will include original poetry readings, storytelling and a couple of surprises.

“The theme last year was ‘American Chai-dol,’ but since we have our own glee club here, it was a natural to do a takeoff on ‘Glee,’ ” says Mark Friedlander, director of resident programs and services. “We’ve been working on ‘Don’t Stop Believing,’ one of the songs they sing on the TV show” and the unofficial San Francisco Giants’ anthem this season.

The cast of 25 will perform five times — four in-house performances as well as the public performance. “The show is an opportunity for residents to perform for our community, our friends and our supporters,” Friedlander says.

Rehearsals began in October. Marnie St. Clair, a member of the activities department staff and head of the glee club, is directing the show.

“I will be singing ‘Night and Day’ and also ‘If I Loved You,’ which is from ‘Carousel,’ ” says one of the football players, Jack Orovitz, 80, a resident for five years. “This show is going to be marvelous.”

In the Jewish Home’s takeoff on “Glee,” cheerleaders are played by staff members (seated, from left) Lisa O’Donnell and Kathy Kyi and residents (from left) Edie Sadewitz, Dulce Martinez and Edna Lachara, and the football players are Frank Greenberg (left) and Jack Orovitz. photos/patricia corrigan

Clad in his football uniform — including heavy shoulder pads — Orovitz notes that this will be his third Chanukah show at the Jewish Home.

Claire Shor, a resident for nine years, takes a long look at Orovitz’s costume and asks why he is wearing it. “Because we’re supposed to be in ‘Chai’ school,” he replies. “Get it?”

Shor will sing “Put Your Arms Around Me, Honey” in the show. Bernice Hunold, a professional storyteller who moved to the Jewish Home in May, will share a story in the show.

Fran Hament, a resident for four years, notes that she gets to sing a solo every year. “My name starts with H-A-M because I am one,” she says, laughing.

St. Clair, the director, hands out new song sheets and pianist Randy Craig begins playing the next tune. Every cast member sings out.

“Look at everybody,” Friedlander whispers proudly. “This group is ready to perform — they have been so enthusiastic from the beginning, and so cohesive as a group. This is such a great activity.”

Suited up in his football pads, Jack Orovitz takes a break with singer Claire Shor during a dress rehearsal last week.

Some administrative staff also will perform in the show, including Edwin Cabigao, chief nursing officer, who will sing and dance.

“It is such a privilege and a pleasure to be part of the Chanukah show — it gives all of us a true meaning of being at ‘home,’ ” Cabigao says. “The show also serves as an important reminder why I am in this field of aging. [This profession] is challenging, fun and just beautiful — just like the Chanukah show!”

Sandra Simon, chief administrative officer, will play one of the cheerleaders and also play the harp in the band. She says, “This show brings staff and residents together — writing the script and songs, making music, singing — adding life to years, and years to life, proving the Jewish Home is a community, not just a nursing home.”

Considered a national model for geriatric care, the Jewish Home is a not-for-profit licensed skilled nursing facility that specializes in programs, services and care for older adults. Established in 1871, today the Jewish Home serves 400 residents and provides short-term rehabilitation care for others. The average age of the residents is 87. Some 700 people are employed by the Jewish Home, which is also served by 400 volunteers.

For four decades, the Jewish Home has presented a Chanukah show.

“I’ve been here 30 of those years, and from a program point of view, the show is wonderful,” Friedlander says. “You can’t feel bad when you are singing, and the show provides a chance for the residents to come together in a shared experience. Having this outlet for creativity and performing builds self esteem, and also is way of giving back to neighbors.”

Friedlander laughs, and then adds, “Plus, there are no divas.”


“Simchat”
is the Jewish Home’s annual Chanukah show. It will be performed for the public at 2 p.m. Dec. 5. Free. At the Frank Family Lounge, Jewish Home, 302 Silver Ave., S.F. To attend, RSVP to (415) 469-2248.