Metro Detroit Seniors Living with Dementia Can Celebrate the Jewish Holidays with a Special Service on Zoom

September 3, 2020 – Seniors living with dementia in metro Detroit can still celebrate the Jewish Holiday of Yom Kippur this year with a 45-minute service on Zoom especially designed for them. The virtual service will be held at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 27.  In addition, families that sign up for the program by September 14 will get a free special gift bag for the holidays which includes an apple and honey, honey cake, round challah, grape juice and prayer book, and which will be delivered to their homes by volunteers.

For the past three years, the Dorothy and Peter Brown Jewish Community Adult Day Program in Southfield and West Bloomfield has run an award-winning special Dementia-Friendly Kol Nidre/Yom Kippur Service. Staff recognized the challenges that a regular synagogue service presented to families whose loved ones have dementia – too long and too crowded. This year, although many reform and conservative synagogues are offering Zoom services during the pandemic, they are still not targeted to those living with dementia.

“The need for connection is greater than ever for families caring for their loved ones. We knew that a regular synagogue service on zoom would likely be too long and not engage our community in the same way that we could: with a shorter and special service full of familiar melodies and briefer periods of talking,” explained Debra Yamstein, a spokesperson for the Brown Program, which is run by JVS Human Services and Jewish Senor Life. Debra added that through her work with people living with dementia she knows that music, prayer, and liturgy are experiences that the dementia brain responds to beyond the time other interests and activities have been lost.

The Brown Program has continued to run virtual programming since April, providing a way for this population to maintain their connections and routine, plus have a positive structure to their day. Zoom classes have included music, trivia, jokes, games, poetry reading and writing to keep these seniors occupied and enjoying life.

To register for the program, being led by Cantor Pamela Schiffer, go to or call 248.592.5031. Registration is preferred by September 14, 2020 so that attendees can receive the holiday gift bags which are being sponsored by a friend of the Brown Program.