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Someone's Parent

Monday, May 21, 2012
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Dear Miriam,

You offer a lot of advice for young adults trying to make their way in the city, but what advice do you have for retirees who are moving to a new place later in life?

Signed,
Someone's Parent

Dear Parent,

My understanding of the generation prior to mine is that it was pretty typical for Jews to graduate from college, get married soon after and then join a synagogue and maybe also a JCC as a young married couple.  Now, there's commonly a gap of several years between graduating and starting a family, and many young adults expect to delay these traditional institutional affiliations until they have children. As a result of this changing landscape, many organizations have sprung up in Philadelphia and around the country to help young adults maintain and enhance their Jewish identities separate from the need for Hebrew schools or the expectation of impending marriage.

At the same time, older adults who probably got married and joined synagogues around age 22 or 23 are still more likely to be synagogue- or JCC-affiliated than their children. What all this means for you is that the best way to get connected with the Jewish community in your city is probably the same way you got connected to your Jewish community when you were first starting out.

That doesn't mean a welcoming committee will be waiting for you when you arrive, but it does mean that you may be more familiar with the path to getting settled than you realize. In some ways, it's actually easier for older adults to get settled in a city. You've probably already gone through this at least once in your life, you hopefully have some means with which to explore the city and your daytime hours are potentially much more open than a young professional who moves somewhere for a job.

On the other hand, young adults moving to a new place have the benefit of being part of a demographic comprised of individuals who are all eagerly looking to meet each other and socialize. At least in the Philly Jewish community, there are a plethora of happy hours and getting-to-know-you events geared toward young adults who are new to town, but there aren't comparable events for older adults. That means you have to forge your own path and put yourself out there because you may not be immediately recognizable as a newcomer.

In Philadelphia, I recommend checking out the Gershman Y in addition to visiting area synagogues, looking into adult education classes, contacting the Federation and finding out about volunteer opportunities. I would, of course, be remiss if I didn't add that subscribing to the Jewish Exponent is a great way to learn about many facets of the community and upcoming activities around the city.

Finally, if you're moving to be close to your children, be sure that you aren't relying on them for your entire social life. Your success in living close to your adult children will depend on your continued independence. Also, don't be surprised if it seems like everyone you meet has already known each other for their whole lives. Even if you feel like an outsider, your new friends will probably view you as a refreshing change!

Good luck with this new chapter in your life, and be well,
Miriam

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