On a recent spring evening, Southland seniors took a trip down memory lane as Chabad-Lubavitch of Los Alamitos hosted an evening of classic black and white Yiddish cinema. The event gave the older audience a chance to enjoy some rarely seen classics and share an evening of kinship with fellow Jewish seniors. This Yiddish film festival is part of Chabad's ongoing effort to embrace one of California's most valuable natural resources: senior citizens.

"Our seniors are important members of society who have given us so much," explained Rabbi Yitzchak Marcus, director of Chabad of Los Alamitos. "When they need a helping hand, we really should be there for them."

Recognizing that the older generation is sometimes ignored, Chabad is striving to meet the needs of the elderly to ensure they receive the attention and respect they deserve.

Chabad of Los Alamitos sponsors a variety of programs to make life better for Southern California's older residents. For those who aren't able to travel, it brings speakers and events to retirement communities and assisted living facilities. Whether it's holding holiday services, organizing Passover Seder dinners, or presenting comedians to bring some laughter, Chabad is helping Jewish seniors lead full spiritual lives and enjoy their golden years.

One of California's fastest-growing senior programs is The Schmooze Club. Created by Chabad, the program caters to retirement communities across the Southland, providing a much-needed social outlet for the elderly.

"The Schmooze Club is so important to us," said Evelyn Glick, founding member and current president of The Schmooze Club of Leisure World Seal Beach. "It gives Jewish people the chance to meet other Jewish people. It's like, you're from Philly, I'm from Philly too!"

Because getting out can be sometimes difficult for a group whose median age is 75, Chabad and The Schmooze Club care for the group's spiritual and social needs close to home.

"Rabbi Marcus really gets it going. He is a blessing," said Glick. "Our motto is 'No Dues To Schmooze,' but feel free to leave a little something to cover refreshments."

"It's great to see people's faces light up just being in a group of their peers," said Marcus. "Participants get to talk about the shared experience of their Jewish heritage and enjoy some wonderful events."

Chabad rabbis bring informative and entertaining events to the seniors all over Southern California
Chabad rabbis bring informative and entertaining events to the seniors all over Southern California
Chabad makes a point to bring interesting, entertaining guests to the seniors. Renah Wolzinger, musical director of the Grammy-nominated South Coast Simcha Band, gave a private clarinet performance and discussed the origins of klezmer music. David Elberger, a 93 year-old comedian, had the crowd rolling in the aisles with his stand-up routine. Local schools stage theatrical events, and it wouldn't be Chanukah without a visit from the Hebrew Academy of Huntington Beach Choir.

In his talks, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, exhorted those who are young to respect the wisdom of the elderly. In general, he said, one should not view aging as an excuse for inaction, but instead as an opportunity to use the higher faculties of one's mind. Following this principle, Chabad offers classes and seminars on a variety of subjects at many Jewish community centers, synagogues and local Chabad Houses.

In keeping with its mission to promote life-long learning, Chabad has also established special Torah study groups for its older members. These groups inspire seniors to share their insights, discuss key issues, and continue to lead vital, productive lives.

Chabad's efforts to aid seniors are stretching across Southern California, with Schmooze Clubs opening up in Mission Viejo and Yorba Linda. Future plans include a visit from History Channel contributor Peter Small to lead a discussion on the history of the Jewish people, as well as a field trip to the Fifth Annual Jewish Music Festival in Los Alamitos.

"Our senior citizens are just too important to neglect," said Marcus. "Whether it's helping people maintain traditions like lighting the menorah, comforting someone through the sadness of a loved one's passing, or just bringing a tray of hamantashen to help celebrate Purim, Chabad wants to be of service."