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MPTF: Heaven and Hell

There was nothing sweeter than the smiles on the residents faces — and the affirmation that God will see us through to next year

The recent Yom Kippur services at the Motion Picture Home's opulent Saban Center was a bittersweet ceremony whose meaning may have been lost to all but a few that were within earshot of the shofar. Those who were there recited the liturgy of atonement in appropriately somber juxtaposition to the light and jocular style of the rabbi.

I'm not being critical of the style — I've been on the business end of a wooden ruler or two at the hands of the stern and humorless Bar-Mitzvah tutor that my parents hired. I've sat, staring into the abyss of boredom, at all-day high holy day services that do more for the practice of proctology than they do for the soul.

As light as it may have been on content, it was heavy on meaning.  Dripping with it.

The circumstances surrounding this worship had as much meaning as the service itself. Not to belittle the visage of the almighty as he peers down at us on this important day — the cocoon of care for the remaining residents of the LTC grew a bit and as it did, embraced the entire campus and all residents as one.

This holiday began as most Jewish New Years begin with Rosh Hashana services. Unlike the Passover seder that never happened for the residents of the Nursing Home, the seder that we literally begged to have and were heartlessly denied — this year's Rosh Hashana celebration that I attended with my mother and friends were specifically for the Nursing Home residents and their loved ones. Hallelujah!

As some might know, the Nursing Home was denied a proper seder that had historically been provided for years before the botched announcement that the facility was going to close. 'Going' being the operative word, as the date pegged for closure has come and gone long since, thanks in part to you who support our collective mission of keeping the Nursing Home doors open, and the muscle of SAG and the Teamsters. Having the lawfirm of Girardi + Keese behind the residents doesn't hurt either.

In a tersely written invitation that sounded more like a chef's last minute requisition for 'veal shanks, Fiji Water, and toilet paper' — we were told that there was indeed going to be services for the Nursing Home residents, family and loved ones. Whether the recognition of these elderly souls originated from the heart, or from the urge not to repeat their Passover faux pas — it was appreciated, and well attended.

Those who were eschewed from participating in other services because of symptoms of their dementia behaved admirably. There were elderly who came under their own power, there were those who were in the company of caregivers and volunteers, there were those who sat next to their children, or wives, or husbands — hand in hand. No matter how frail the participant was, the cumulative strength in that room had mass and weight — it was almost a physical property.

We were here because we had a right to be here. We demanded to be here — and we were recognized. We broke bread and sang songs. We prayed for a good year ahead.  Even though the traditional honey and apple were strangely left out of the ceremony, there could not have been anything sweeter in the room than the smiles on the residents faces and the affirmation that God will see us through to next year, and the next, and the next.

Our spirit soared that day. Our elderly brothers' and sisters' right to worship was demanded by their supporters, and this time underwritten by the home that they and we are fighting to maintain. As we get reset and re-booted by God for this coming year, we re-affirm our commitment to return the Motion Picture and Television Fund to their historic mission of 'we take care of our own'.

All of our own.


Winner of the Los Angeles Press Club's best blog award and a Southern California Journalism Award for his HollyBlogs, as well as an award for the Facebook group that helped to muscle the salvation of long-term care for the motion picture and television industry, Stellar's "vituperative blog on TheWrap" (Vanity Fair) focuses on issues related to the motion picture and entertainment industry. Stellar is founder of The Man/Kind Project, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation whose mission is to fight religious and cultural intolerance through the arts while building bridges of tolerance for all people. Stellar lives in Woodland Hills, California, with his wife of over 30 years, Nuala, and much too much Beatles memorabilia.