Siegal Lifelong Learning Executive Director Brian Amkraut, from left, director Alanna Cooper and Kyla Epstein Schneider, chair of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s task force on aging, talk about news of Jewish interest at “Tribe Talk” March 27. 

The Siegal Lifelong Learning Program at Case Western Reserve University’s “Tribe Talk: New Jewish Conversations” program on March 27 was the first public discussion about a new Jewish Federation of Cleveland report on aging and dementia in the community.

The event at Landmark Centre in Beachwood had about 30 attendees who discussed the report, which has not been released in full, in addition to the other topics chosen for the night: Jewish cemetery desecration and Israel’s travel ban.

Kyla Epstein Schneider, the chair of the Federation’s Nakum aging and dementia task force that spent two years on the report, was guest speaker. She said the goal of the report was threefold: to better understand the current Jewish community and its support for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia care, to identify opportunities for coordination and to project what resources will be needed in the next 30 years as baby boomers age.

The demand for both caregivers for people with dementia and services for people who are acting as caregivers for family members is expected to rise significantly, from an already high level of need, according to the report. Schneider said, according to the interviews done for the report, many people in the community are already struggling to make it work.

“We are all going to become caregivers and what it means to be a caregiver is really complicated,” Schneider said. “We met with people who quit their jobs in order to care for people, we met with people who actually didn’t buy groceries so that they could buy their parent groceries … and this is not the most peripheral of the community- this is sort of quasi-mainstream people in the community.”

Moreover, differences between baby boomers and earlier generations may make the expectations of care different.

“We’ve got a huge population, a population that has been traumatized economically and we have a population that wants what they want, when they want it and how they want it,” she said.

Audience members also made remarks about the trend toward younger generations moving out of state and moving elderly parents into nursing homes, instead of caring for them themselves.

Schneider, along with the other Tribe Talk panelists Siegal Lifelong Learning program Executive Director Brian Amkraut and director Alanna Cooper, also discussed Israel’s March 8 travel ban on boycott, divestment and sanctions activists from entering the country. They debated whether the ban was part of a broad nationalist movement internationally, as well as whether it could keep out people who might be interested in engaging in productive debates.

“The people who are open minded, you want to let them in,” Amkraut said. “The language that we always hear is that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East- invite them in and have a debate. It’s sort of putting up walls even if (the law) is not all that enforced.”

Cemetery desecration was also a topic, referring to two incidents last month where cemeteries in Philadelphia and St. Louis had graves knocked over. There also was another incident in Brooklyn, N.Y., that was initially thought to be vandalism, but turned out the damage was caused by wind. The panelists discussed whether, especially in the case of the Brooklyn cemetery, if fears of anti-Semitism have become overblown due to the current political climate, when cemetery degradation has long been a concern.

“A lot of our cemeteries have not been properly maintained and we have to do a lot of inward looking,” Cooper said.

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