Each member of the community felt responsible for the other and the aged were notably honored.
Historically speaking, the Jewish community has tended to demonstrate a care for the aged that is often taken to be exemplary. The esteem in which the aged were held was expressed in tangible form by a pattern of institutions caring for their needs. Even to this day, Jews devote considerable time, energy and resources to providing for the aged so that Jewish solicitude is almost a stereotype. In the solidarity of the Jewish family, as it evolved almost to the present, we may find an explanation for this care. Each member of the community felt responsible for the other and the aged were notably honored.
In the Jewish religious system, elders who interpreted the Torah, who transmitted it to successive generations, in terms of family structure in the value-set of Judaism, commanded a loving authority and respect. Jewish community life had an integrity of its own, even as Jewish cultural and religious life maintained its continuity, adapting to a changing environment and yet retaining the “chain of tradition.” …
The solidarity of the Jewish family today, while still remarkable, is beginning to exhibit some signs of fragmentation. Only recently investigators have found numbers of the Jewish aged abandoned and ignored in pockets of poverty in cities like New York and Miami. Sociological investigation indicates that some prevailing conceptions of Jewish family life must be updated and revised.
But Jewish concern for the aged, can, even today, hardly be dismissed as a stereotype. A deeply ingrained commitment continues to make this concern distinctive in a society that is conspicuously youth-oriented and this is directed by a peer culture largely cut loose from the past and from older, more stable patterns of family organization. – Dr. Robert L. Katz, p. 47 That You May Live Long: Caring for Our Aging Parents, Caring for Ourselves.
A recurring theme in all cultures is the accommodation of the generations to each other.
A recurring theme in all cultures is the accommodation of the generations to each other. Conflicts over power and privilege as between the young and the old were as overt in classic times as they are now, except that the alignment of forces has radically changed.
A society which does not provide sufficient gratifications for the elderly will be an unhappy society for the young as well as the old.
Our society sees the aging as besieged by the young, now fighting a defensive battle. The so-called “middle-aged” (like “aging,” an ambiguous term), while still in power, feel threatened by a youth-oriented society and typically attempt to identify with the young and with their images of what is humanly significant and precious. … Psychiatrist Seymour L. Halleck commented that: a society which does not provide sufficient gratifications for the elderly will be an unhappy society for the young as well as the old. If the old are not satisfied, nobody can accept the prospects of age with quantity … for any society which cannot treat its elderly members decently is doomed to unremitting despair and chaos. (Halleck quote from “What Adults Have Against Children,” The Enquirer Magazine, Cincinnati, Feb. 6, 1972).
– Dr. Robert L. Katz, p. 51 That You May Live Long: Caring for Our Aging Parents, Caring for Ourselves.
Used by permission. For more from this book, see That You May Live Long: Caring for Our Aging Parents, Caring for Ourselves; edited by Richard F. Address and Hara E. Person, UAHC Press, New York, 2003.
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