After a lifetime of working and raising families many of our elderly are consigned to spending their last years residing in nursing homes, senior living centers and the like – a somewhat boring existence of sleeping, eating, medical and dental appointments, and so on.
Without the comfort of family around them, many succumb to the ennui, but one daring nursing home administration in southwest Connecticut presented his charges with something very special to look forward to – and to remember for the rest of their lives.
And a short film about their journey, “Next Year Jerusalem,” from First Run Features, preserves their memories as more than a tourism Baedeker but a meditation on the sanctity of human experience and a tribute to the wisdom accumulated in a lifetime. These few residents of a nursing home, who face a future with limited purpose, are offered the promise of at least one new adventure.
Having recently made my own trip to Israel, including the logistics of travel, dining, sightseeing, etc., I can’t imagine the difficulty of taking wheelchair borne residents up to Masada, to the Kotel, to float in the Dead Sea, but this group did all that – plus David Gaynes, the producer, elegantly captures the quiet repetitive routine and atmosphere of a Jewish nursing home, as well as the intricate planning and preparation of the trip to Israel.
It takes some time after the beginning of the film to get into it and not find it as completely boring to watch as it must be boring to exist there for the residents, and perhaps even the staff, but as the story proceeds these residents share their wisdom and their inherent joie de vivre – and we can find ourselves in their place cheering them on and engaging with their efforts to enjoy their trip to Israel.
These eleven nursing home residents and their accompanying staff from the Connecticut nursing home could represent any of us or our own loved ones – consigned to live out their lives in a boring terminal existence, but for one bright moment to look forward to and to remember afterward they come alive and have something to live for. “Next Year Jerusalem” allows them to share that with all of us.
“Next Year Jerusalem” opens May 16th at New York’s Quad Cinema.Aharon Ben Anshel
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