What Inspires Me at 90
Written by Tamara Frankel
Another successful virtual Empowerment Series by Jewish Senior Alliance was cosponsored by Peretz Centre, featuring nonagenarian Gloria Levi. Gyda Chud, Co-President of JSA, as well as President of Peretz Centre for Secular Jewish Culture, welcomed the 67 viewers and offered a background of JSA’s Empowerment series. Fran Goldberg introduced Gloria as a feminist, activist, Covid survivor, gerontologist, therapist, social worker, and a woman of tremendous confidence, who finds joy in the darkest of moments.
Gloria seems to find inspiration in everything around her, from the rustling breeze and glistening sunsets to deep soulful self-discovery. She finds meaning in both everyday happenings and the larger matters of the heart and social justice. If we were to sum up Gloria’s nuanced and profound wisdom in a word, it would be wholeness. She elevates the whole person with all their perfect imperfections.
To Gloria, self-discovery and self-knowledge are paramount values. She illustrates the importance of being true to oneself with the charming story of Rabbi Zusia, who lamented to God, bemoaning his fate for not being like Moses and Abraham. God advised him to be exactly who he is – Zusia. The goal is not to strive for perfection but to be authentically oneself.
Through the lens of Gloria’s approach of wholeness, even a global disaster like Covid-19, has vital lessons for us. Gloria, a Covid-19 survivor, refers to the virus as the 11th plague. But she is passionate about the lessons that this pandemic has brought to light. It revealed the discrepancy between the haves and the haves not: the ones who support our daily life, the low wage earners, clerks, grocery store workers, hospital workers, drivers, food production workers, in stark contrast with the billionaires. The pandemic has yielded an awakening, a heightened awareness that things need to change on numerous levels, both environmentally and socially.
Along with her staunch commitment to social justice, Gloria draws connections and inspiration from Jewish sources; for example, she refers to Leviticus in which God tells Moses to instruct the Israelites to give the land a rest. During the Sabbath year, the land is to lie fallow and to be “released” from cultivation. Weaving rest and restoration into our physical and spiritual worlds is a much-needed change. Finally, Gloria quotes Ecclesiastes and reminds us all that ‘vanity of vanities; all is vanity’. So (let’s) follow Gloria’s advice: Embrace life, enjoy meaningful relationships and small kindnesses. And find inspiration all around us.
Watch the video now!