Sydney Rein is a busy Weber School sophomore who competes in cross-country and triathlons, and is thinking about medical school. Fran Hirsh is a 76-year-old retiree who lives at the Jewish Tower. Their worlds are far apart, but thanks to a collaborative project called Ageless interAction, the two are now friends.
As Sydney tells it, “The first time I met Fran Hirsch we were so busy chopping vegetables and making rice in the JCC kitchen that we could have talked for hours. I learned that Fran was married at 18, had a daughter, and got divorced at a time when being a single mom carried a lot of stigma. Fran is a woman who really shaped her own life. At age 20 she started her own successful electronics repair business in Florida with clients in the aerospace industry. There were hardly any women in that field and she dealt with a lot of prejudice. I loved her courage, her determination to succeed. She lives an active life in Atlanta near her daughter, and remains unconventional. She is a pioneer whose strength inspires me.”
And Sydney inspired Fran. “She reminds me that young women really do need to hear our stories and that we can learn from each other. I connected with her focus and drive.”
These priceless encounters would not have occurred without the inspiration of Ageless Interaction, LLC, a non-profit that coordinates inter-generational programs, and Janie Walker, Federation’s NORC Program Manager. Janie wondered what would happen if high school students and Jewish older adults met through hands-on activities like cooking at the JCC? What if they really broke through age boundaries and shared their most personal stories? Ageless Interaction was a complex collaboration bringing six different community organizations together — The MJCCA, The Atlanta History Center, Story Corps, The Weber School, The Cuba Archives of The Breman Museum, and Meyer Balser & Toco Hills NORCs. Together they shaped powerful inter-generational experiences for Weber School students and seniors from around our community.
Weber school sophomore Aliza Abusch-Magder, will never forget the searing story of Manuella Bornstein, an 82-year-old survivor of the Holocaust. “My relationship with Manuella brings together so many things I care about — family, feminism, history. I actually love that she is not my age,” Aliza says. “Manuella’s family lived in Paris during the Nazi occupation and through a series of incredible accidents, or maybe miracles, they were smuggled to the South of France and survived the war. Manuella was nine-years-old and had no idea she was fleeing danger. Caring Christians gave her father work and provided identification papers. While in hiding, her mother had a son. They left Paris as four and returned as five. That was another miracle. Manuella is a role model for me, and I’m excited to see where our friendship goes.”
“I love the happiness in these young people, and how they express themselves,” Manuella reflects. “Too often our friends are similar to us in age and experience. I have grown from knowing Aliza.”
Each of the Ageless Interaction conversations were recorded by StoryCorps and are now preserved at the Cuba Archives, and at the Atlanta History Center.
Federation is proud to support projects like Ageless Interaction that build bridges of understanding in our community.