Reflections on the Association of Jewish Aging Services Conference

From our Executive Vice President and CEO, Joyce Dubensky: I just got back from presenting on two of Tanenbaum program’s at the AJAS Annual Conference.  The participants were leaders in providing residential care for the elderly from across the country.  What an experience!

Though their organizations are sectarian (unlike Tanenbaum) and their missions and visions derive from Jewish values, they often serve people from diverse religious backgrounds and have many staff who are not Jewish.  The conversation was rich, as we talked about ways to accommodate staff who are not of the organization’s dominant faith tradition and how to provide care for people from different traditions.

Some of the issues were not easy, and I was reminded – as I often am – about how important it is to find ways to put respect for our differences into practice while maintaining our own beliefs and identities.  What should an administrator in a Jewish nursing home do when a terrific staff person who happens to be Muslim comes in during Ramadan wearing a hijab?  Is there a dress code?  How do you accommodate a great staffer, who has empathy and gives great care, when this is core to her beliefs?  If there is a policy, do you need an exception for this staffer?  And if so, are you setting a precedent?
 
We covered some practical solutions and shared interesting ideas.  We heard from one residence that provides no vacation or personal days, no holidays, no sick time.  Instead, everyone gets a fixed number of days to use however they wish each year.  That way, if a staff person is Hindu, he or she can take Diwali off because that is an important holiday to them, when it probably wouldn’t be a day off otherwise.  Or if they are ill, they can use more than the usual sick time.  I don’t know whether the days can be rolled over and whether time can be accrued in the event of future sick time or to take a long spiritual retreat, but it certainly is an interesting approach. (Is it one that your organization uses?  What do you think about it?)