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What is Purim and How is it Celebrated?

While many Jewish holidays have pretty serious religious underpinnings, Purim, coming up on February 25th, is one of the most joyous and fun of the Jewish holidays. It’s a little bit of Mardi Gras, Passover, and Halloween all rolled into one. Traditions of this holiday include giving care packages to those in need and baking delicious Jewish staples. But how did these traditions emerge? What exactly is Purim? 

The Origin of Purim

The story of Purim commemorates the events that took place in the Bible: Book of Esther. The protagonists of the story are Esther and her cousin Mordecai who raised her as if she was his own daughter. Esther was a young and beautiful Jewish woman living in Persia. She was taken to the King of Persia, Ahasuerus, who immediately took a liking to her. So much so, that he made Esther queen. However, the king did not know an important part of Esther’s identity. She hid her Judaism from him per her cousin Mordecai’s advice. 

The antagonist, or villain, of the story is Haman. He’s the smug and self-absorbed advisor to King Ahasuerus. Haman decided he wanted to destroy all Jewish people just because Mordecai wouldn’t bow down to him. He told the king, “There are certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your realm. Their laws are different from those of every other person’s, and they do not observe the king’s laws; therefore, it is not befitting the king to tolerate them.” Esther 3:8. Since he was the king’s trusted advisor, Ahasuerus decided Haman could move forward with whatever plot he had in mind. When Mordecai found out about Haman’s evil plans, he persuaded Esther to speak to the king in order to save the Jewish people. To prepare herself for an unpredictable outcome from the king, Esther fasted for three days before going to speak to him. 

Luckily, the king welcomed Esther with open arms and she decided it was the right time to reveal her true identity. Later, she told him of Haman’s evil plan against her people. Because of Esther’s bravery, the Jewish people were saved.

Celebrating Purim at Lester Senior Living

Purim is preceded by a minor fast, the Fast of Esther, which commemorates Esther’s three days of fasting in preparation for meeting with the king. The primary commandment related to Purim is to hear the reading of the book of Esther, which we read to our residents every year. While listening to this reading, it is custom to boo, hiss, stamp one’s feet and rattle noisemakers whenever Haman’s name is mentioned in the service. After all, he is the bad guy.

But arguably the most fun way to commemorate this holiday is to eat, drink and be happy! If you are looking for a sweet treat to make for Purim, check out our signature recipe for Hamantaschen cookies: https://jchcorp.org/how-to-make-delicious-hamantaschen-cookies-before-purim/. These delicious triangular fruit-filled cookies are supposed to represent Haman’s three-cornered hat. In addition, Jewish people are commanded to share these treats with others or make donations to charity, also known as shalach manos (lit. sending out portions). 

If you’d like to know more about how we are celebrating Purim at Lester Senior Living, or have any other questions regarding our senior care services, please contact us today. We’d love to hear from you. 

How to Make Delicious Hamantaschen Cookies Before Purim

For many Jewish families, Purim wouldn’t be complete without Hamantaschen or the “triangle cookies” that are a traditional part of the holiday. These staple cookies are so simple to make once you gather the right ingredients. Not to mention, you can fill the center pockets of each cookie with whatever filling you like! For this recipe, we decided to alternate between apricot preserves, raspberry jam and Nutella. Without further ado, here is Jewish Community Housing Corporation’s signature recipe for Hamantaschen cookies!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups margarine or butter
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Fillings: apricot jam, Nutella, Raspberry Jam
  • Baking sheet 
  • 3 in. round cookie cutter
  • Confectioners’ sugar (optional)

Prep Time: 30 mins (if dough is prepped ahead of time)
Cook Time: 15 mins

Directions:

  1. Begin by mixing the sugar and margarine together. Then, add eggs and mix together until the mixture is smooth. Once smooth, stir in water and vanilla extract. Next, add flour, and continue mixing until the dough forms a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for a couple hours before baking.

  2. Heat oven to 375 F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8-in. thickness. Start to cut pieces with your floured cookie cutter. Place 1 teaspoon apricot, raspberry  or Nutella filling in the center of each piece of dough. Bring 3 edges together over filling, overlapping slightly (a small portion of filling should show in the center) and then pinch edges gently. Place each cookie 1 in. apart on an ungreased baking sheet.

  3. Bake in the oven for about 12-15 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Using a spatula, carefully remove the cookies from the baking sheet and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Lightly dust each cookie with confectioners’ sugar (if desired) and enjoy!

    Bonus tip: If you are not eating the cookies immediately or want to save them for another day, store them in an air-tight container for maximum freshness.


Can’t be bothered to bake? 

At Lester Senior Living, our chefs are always baking something. For more information about senior living activities in Morris County, NJ, please contact JCHC: Lester Senior Living today: (973) 929-2725. You could also visit our website to learn more about what community life is really like in Morris County, NJ: https://jchcorp.org/assisted-living-morris-county-nj/

 

6 Winter Wellness and Safety Tips for Seniors

The winter months are here—with cold temperatures, dry air, snow and ice. Although we love the sight of fresh snow, it’s important that your senior loved ones are safe and well-prepared in case a pretty winter snowfall turns into a severe storm. (Important safety tip: give the kid down the street ten bucks to shovel for you!) The colder weather can also have negative effects on our minds and bodies,  if we don’t stick to good wellness habits throughout the season. Luckily, our assisted living team at Lester has put together some tips to help seniors stay safe and well this season.

  • Home safety. If mom and dad are still residing in their own home, It’s important to make sure someone is nearby to shovel and salt their outdoor steps, walkways and driveway. The last thing your senior parents should have to worry about is getting hurt while shoveling the snow. Seniors should also wear closed comfortable shoes or boots with rubber soles in icy weather. If they use a cane or walker, double check that the rubber tips are in good condition, so they don’t lose grip on slick surfaces. 
  • Bundle up. Seniors are less able to regulate their body temperature, putting them at increased risk of hypothermia in cold weather. Older adults should keep the thermostat set at a comfortable temperature, avoid sudden exertion, and wear layered clothing outdoors to retain body heat. They should also wear a hat or head scarf to keep their hands and feet warm, and protect their ears against the harsh winter chill. 
  • Stay hydrated. The cold air and indoor heaters can cause dehydration, if you’re not careful. So encourage your senior family member to drink plenty of water and use moisturizers to avoid itchy winter skin. Bonus tip: Indoor plants give off moisture and oxygen, and the colors brighten can up a dull, winter’s day.
  • Eat well. Comfort foods feel good in the moment, but lack quality nutrition. Seniors should include fruits, vegetables and whole grains to maintain optimal nutrition and well-being. (They may also help with digestion and may lower cholesterol and blood sugar.) Older adults should also limit unhealthy fats, sodium and added sugars. At the JCHC communities, we prepare fresh, nutrient-packed homemade soups for residents who are on meal plans. A bowl of delicious hot soup in the winter is a great way to support our seniors’ well-being with immune-boosting ingredients. 
  • Exercise. Daily exercise helps keep your body strong and your mind positive. Seniors especially should try to get fresh air and sunshine, even on cold days, as sunlight provides Vitamin D which aids in strengthening bones. Fitness classes are also a great way to help stretch, tone and strengthen muscles, promote relaxation, and improve coordination and cardiac health; better coordination and balance enhance wintertime safety by helping to prevent falls. These are all reasons why we offer a variety of regularly scheduled exercise classes at all four JCHC communities. 
  • Stay connected. Although face-to-face check-ins may be tough during a pandemic, it’s important that seniors have someone to check in periodically (even if it’s through Zoom!). An essential benefit of living in a senior/retirement community is that one always has neighbors and a staff to provide immediate care. At JCHC, we also have individual 24-hour emergency alert systems in every apartment.

Active Senior Living in Whippany, NJ

Lester Senior Living is part of the Jewish Community Housing Corporation, a collection of senior living communities in New Jersey that help support and engage an active lifestyle for seniors.

During the current health crisis, we’re not only working hard to keep your loved ones safe and healthy, we’re also doing all we can to keep families connected during the winter season. If you’d like to find out more about our senior activities and care services in Morris County, NJ, give us a call today: (973) 929-2725. Or you could visit our website to learn more about community life at Lester Senior Living: https://jchcorp.org/lester-senior-living-morris-county/

 

American Heart Month: Tips to Avoid Heart Disease

American Heart Month, a federally recognized event, is a great reminder for Americans to focus on their hearts. Heart awareness in a time of  COVID-19 seems particularly important. Simply put, there is no better time to prioritize our health and the health of our senior family members. Simple lifestyle changes can not only prevent heart disease, but can also strengthen the possibility of living longer with a much healthier heart. Our assisted living team in Morris County, NJ has gathered vital information regarding heart disease risk factors and tips to prevent this all too common disease.  

Risk Factors of Heart Disease 

Despite years and even decades of hearing how smoking and being obese can ruin your heart health, too many americans are not getting the message. Yet it turns out that many of the risk factors below can be managed with smart and relatively simple changes to your lifestyle. 

Common risk factors include:

    • Smoking
    • Diabetes
    • Physical inactivity and obesity
    • Alcohol, caffeine and substance abuse
    • High blood pressure or cholesterol levels
    • High levels of stress and anxiety 
    • Ethnicity and family history 
    • Age and gender 

Heart Disease Prevention: Tips for Healthy Senior Living 

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you set out on your journey to live a heart healthy life.

  • Maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol. Higher levels of blood pressure and cholesterol mean your heart is being overworked. One of the first steps you can take to maintain a healthy heart is to have healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Make an appointment with your primary physician to determine what levels are considered healthy for you, since your levels depend on your unique risk factors and heart history.

  • Make healthy lifestyle choices and stick to them. Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy diet is key. Cut out smoking and foods that are high in saturated fat content, like processed meats. Here at Lester Senior Living, we have many senior exercise classes available (chair yoga, anyone?) and offer low-cal, low-fat dining options 7 days a week. Visit our website to learn more about what we offer at the Lester Senior Living community.

  • Combat stress head-on. Stress that goes unmanaged is a serious risk factor for heart disease. It’s also something that is often overlooked or confused with another medical condition. If you have significant trouble managing stress and anxiety, we recommend speaking to a medical professional as soon as possible.

  • Have regular check ups. Most people don’t want to visit the doctor without a reason but having yearly checkups and blood work is one of the best things you can do for preventative maintenance on your heart. As we get older, we may accept many of our aches and pains but they may sometimes be the harbinger of something else. If you catch it early, you will be much better off.

Assisted Living Care Services in Morris County, NJ 

At Lester Senior Living, having caregivers on-site around the clock, means your senior family member can get the extra help they need immediately. We have one of the best ratios of staff to residents in the industry, which means we never skimp on care. Our senior living residents also have direct access to certified specialists on-site, such as physicians, therapists and other wellness providers that can manage the medical complications that come with heart disease. 

If you have any questions about our care services, or if you’d like to see if our senior community is the right fit for your loved one, please contact Lester Senior Living today: (973) 929-2725. You could also visit our website for more information on assisted living in Morris County, NJ: https://jchcorp.org/assisted-living-morris-county-nj/

 

JCHC Honors National Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today, January 27, 2021, we remember all 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and the 11 million additional innocent victims of the Nazi regime. We are also commemorating the brave stories of Holocaust survivors. During the Holocaust, small acts of courage were a matter of life and death. The strength to stand up for what was right when all felt hopeless is the legacy of the survivors. Now more than ever, the Jewish Community Housing Corporation feels it is our responsibility to keep these stories of survival alive, especially for our residents who were survivors themselves. Here are some of the ways in which we will commemorate this day.

Survival Stories from JCHC Residents

January 27th marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The United Nations designated this day to honor the memory of Europe’s Jews and others who were targeted by the Nazi regime. As this day means so much to our organization, we only felt it was right to capture the real-life experiences of residents who lived through the Holocaust. Their powerful stories of strength and courage deserve to be heard and remembered for years to come. To watch the emotional interviews, follow our Facebook pages as we will be posting their recollections throughout the day.

Follow Jewish Community Housing Corporation on Facebook.
Follow Lester Senior Living on Facebook.
Follow Village Apartments on Facebook. 

#WeRemember: International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021 Virtual Ceremony 

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum will mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day with two digital events. While the museum is closed due to COVID-19, this day cannot be postponed. #WeRemember at 9:30 am will begin with Susan Eisenhower, discussing her grandfather, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and his prediction that people would one day deny that the Holocaust took place.

Following this, the Museum’s annual commemoration at 1pm will feature Holocaust survivors and leaders, who will explain how important it is to preserve the lessons and truth of the Holocaust. Since the museum’s opening in 1993, they have showcased the true recollections of Holocaust survivors every year. Their stories continue to remind us to confront hatred head-on and defend the truth today, and every day. 

To watch the virtual ceremony in full, please visit this link: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLWQC3P4psZP763jsXRI-DfX0ppJ5M-pdU

How You Can Get Involved 

“No thief, however skillful, can rob one of knowledge, and that is why knowledge is the best and safest treasure to acquire.” – L. Frank Baum. It’s as simple as sharing the stories with others, while also learning about what really happened during the Holocaust. History can repeat itself, if we do not remember or learn from it. One easy way to get involved is to repost the interviews from our senior living residents on social media. When reposting, make sure to use the hashtags: #WeRemember and #HolocaustRemembranceDay to keep the stories alive and circulating throughout the world. You just never know whose life you could change with the power of information.

To learn more about the core values of our senior living communities in Morris and Essex County, NJ, please visit our website at: https://jchcorp.org/