Patience, Dignity and Redemption

Rabbi Misha Shulman
4 min readApr 8, 2022
Seniors, people with disabilities, home care workers and activists risking arrest this week in Albany

Something beautiful took place this week in Albany. Seniors and disabled people joined their home care workers to occupy the capital demanding a living wage for home care workers. Most of us have had a chance to see home care workers in action. It’s a hard job, demanding constant compassion to go along with the expertise and physical strength required. It’s a job that you choose out of some movement in your heart. In New York especially, it’s a job that you don’t often choose out of rational reasons, since many of the workers get paid just over $13 an hour, less than working at a fast-food restaurant.

Yesterday, Sadie, whose Bat Mitzvah is coming up told me she sees her Torah portion as a story of renewal after a disaster. She likened it to coming out of the pandemic and shared with me what she thought we were supposed to have learned from these last two years, lessons about time and what to do with it. When I asked her whether she thought we actually learned lessons as a society she smiled sadly. “Not really.”

Half an hour later I turned on the radio to hear that despite bi-partisan votes in big majorities in both houses of congress in favor, Governor Hochul refused to add the Fair Pay for Homecare Act to the annual budget. Instead of the 150% pay raise needed, she gave them $2 extra per hour. I immediately thought of the nursing homes ravaged with Covid, the seniors and disabled folks who spent months alone in their homes, the shame I felt at the surfacing of our society’s utter failure to follow the biblical dictate: והדרת פני זקן, Ve-Hadarta Peney Zaken, or “Bring honor to the face of the elderly.” Instead of “hadar”, this Hebrew word that implies a shining beauty, the glory that we are instructed to recognize in our beautiful, wise and loving elders, we too often tuck them away to suffer in the dark.

Locally, we are in a crisis with regards to home care. Currently at least 17% of people in NY state who can’t function on their own simply can’t find someone to hire to help them. Lots of those that do, have help only part of the time they need it. The current situation forces people who don’t need to be in a nursing home to make that move, or others to live without basic hygiene practices. This is just one of hundreds of posts that express the absurd situation people are living in.

Rabbi Misha Shulman

Jerusalem born, Misha has been working at the cusp of religion, art and activism since 1999. Rabbi @ The New Shul and Director of School for Creative Judaism.