Once a month for the past year, the mothers and babies represented in the Mommy and Me group at suburban New York Jewish center have helped residents of a local senior center express their still-youthful spirits.

“The seniors and babies really relate,” says Gabrielle Hazan, who first suggested the trips to her fellow mothers at Chabad-Lubavitch of the River Towns in Dobbs Ferry. “They don’t usually have much of a connection with children, and, unfortunately, don’t receive too many visitors. When we come, they’re so receptive.”

Aided by the musical entertainer Bobby Doowah, the Mommy and Me brings companionship and Jewish music to the residents of the Atria Woodlands senior living center in Ardsley. The group, one of some 443 similar programs at Chabad Houses across North America, calls its monthly visits “Mommies Making a Difference.”


Hazan says that she was looking for a way to volunteer in a community service project with her new daughter, Daniella.

“Everyone wanted to volunteer, but wasn’t sure how,” she explains. “I feel so blessed that we’re able to give back with this.”

Lifelong Messages

Participants in the monthly visits by the Mommy and Me group attest to a newfound vigor in the senior center’s residents.
Participants in the monthly visits by the Mommy and Me group attest to a newfound vigor in the senior center’s residents.

Vicki Ritter, who participates in the program with her one-year-old daughter, Annelia, asserts that it helps her transmit the value of helping others to her daughter.

“This sets the tone as one of the things we do in life, that this is important to us,” says Ritter. “It’s teaching her a life lesson. Hopefully, 10 years down the line, I’ll be able to say to her, ‘You’ve been doing this every year of your life.’ ”

Hinda Silverman, the co-director of the Dobbs Ferry Chabad House who began the class with Doowah, says that the visits have a powerful impact on seniors.

“They’re smiling from ear to ear for the entire half hour,” says Silverman. “A baby cheers anyone up. Some of the seniors haven’t held a baby in 50 years.”

Christine Navarro, director of programs and activities for the senior center, agrees.

“It brings them back to when they had children,” she told The Journal News earlier this month. “It helps them forget the stresses of getting old, and then they have a youth on their lap to remind them what life is all about.”

For his part, Doowah says that everyone gets involved when he starts to sing.

“When I throw in a couple of Yiddish lyrics, [the residents] go crazy,” he says. “I pass out instruments to them, and make sure the kids sit on their laps.”

Doowah adds that the program provides the opportunity to pass along Jewish messages to the mommies, babies and seniors, many of whom happen to be Jewish.

“It opens them up to seeing that the greatness of Judaism is about doing for others,” he explains.

For Ritter, who keeps a hectic schedule, the program is a must-do activity.

“It’s hard to commit to something as a new mom,” she says. “To commit to something, it has to be really worth it. This is.

“We never miss a class,” she adds. “It’s special.”