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Text Context January 2010: Generations
Friday, January 1, 2010

‘Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made,” Robert Browning wrote in “Rabbi Ben Ezra.” The Victorian poet had interests in Judaica and was inspired by the 12th-century Spanish scholar and poet, Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra. In Browning’s optimistic poem, youth and age are not flip sides of life’s journey; generations are interconnected, always.

‘Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made,” Robert Browning wrote in “Rabbi Ben Ezra.” The Victorian poet had interests in Judaica and was inspired by the 12th-century Spanish scholar and poet, Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra. In Browning’s optimistic poem, youth and age are not flip sides of life’s journey; generations are interconnected, always.

Our contributors this month illuminate issues of mind and body, strength and renewal, the Jewish past and present, as they address autobiographical and biblical themes. We’re pleased to present the varied views of a rabbi, a psychiatrist, a novelist, a scholar and a daughter of Holocaust survivors. Rabbi Judith Hauptman spins Jewish texts, Dr. Isaac Steven Herschkopf links the Torah’s prescriptions for long life with his profession, Matthew Aaron Goodman writes of the power of stories, Jerome A. Chanes reviews the professional literature and Gloria Kestenbaum reflects on the aging of Holocaust survivors and their children. I’m sad to report that last week, Israel Stieglitz, Kestenbaum’s father, whom she writes about, passed away. May his memory be a blessing.

Many thanks to curator Laura Kruger and the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion Museum for lending us works of art from its recent exhibition, “The Art of Aging,” organized with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and JDC-Eshel in Israel. The catalog provides evidence that creativity and wisdom are magnified with age. Here, Yael Braun paints her happy, hopeful grandfather, crowning him with birds. For this Israeli artist, painting is a way to connect with older generations of her family.

Age — every age — is to be celebrated, whether the milestone numbers, which have meaning in Jewish life (40 as the age of understanding, spiritual strength at 80, according to Pirkei Avot, 5:25), or other sacred moments of passages along life’s journey.

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