Tradition! Celebrating Jewish holidays in style at Maravilla Scottsdale

Life doesn’t end at retirement, and the Jewish holidays don’t stop when people move into senior living communities. Just ask Janice and Howard Lavitt, who moved into Maravilla Scottsdale almost three years ago and have never looked back. “Initially, our children told us about the community,” Howard says. “We liked the lifestyle. The other places we toured were institutional, but Maravilla felt more like a resort than a senior living place.”

While living at Maravilla, Janice and Howard not only enjoy a fulfilling active life, they continue to celebrate all the Jewish holidays. They mix Maravilla style and Jewish tradition with the help of Erin Masterson, program director at Maravilla Scottsdale, who oversees all the programming and activities in independent living, assisted living and memory care. She also oversees the fitness program, which includes everything from tai chi and Zumba to line dancing and yoga. “Janice does yoga and Howard does a lot of personal training,” Erin says.

Janice and Howard call Maravilla home, which is easy to do when the lifestyle includes a variety of amenities and an activity program that sets it apart. “The staff, including Erin, are great,” Janice says. “We are very fortunate to know everyone and have made a good number of friends here.”

Howard agrees that it’s not just the place. “It really is nice being around people you like.”

Home for the High Holidays and much more

Although holidays are for family, they are also for friends. There are many Jewish holidays to celebrate, and Janice and Howard enjoy celebrating with their Maravilla friends, both Jewish and non-Jewish alike. “It is very amazing to me how many people who are not Jewish come to participate,” Janice says. “It really is a community here.”

Whether celebrations takes place directly at Maravilla or at another location, Erin ensures that Janice and Howard and all those who celebrate are where they need to be for the holidays. From holiday services to medical appointments, Maravilla offers transportation to all who want and need the service.

“We have a rabbi that comes in on a monthly basis,” says Erin. “Rabbi Levi (Levertov) with Smile on Seniors comes to our community and is involved with prayers for Jewish residents for the High Holidays, and then we provided transportation to Temple Solel. For Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we provided transportation to synagogue.”

“Maravilla has a great relationship with Rabbi John Linder at Temple Solel and coordinates services with them,” Howard says, as he and Janice are members.

Passover is a favorite for Howard, which is celebrated in style at Maravilla. “We have a unique seder dinner where it involves others, and we teach them about our culture and traditions. The cooperation and planning with our activity director (Erin) has made our Passover seder a beautiful and ceremonious dinner.

“Erin and the chef work closely together to ensure that the traditional food for our holidays is served in the dining room … right down to the haroseth,” he says. In addition, one of the couple’s children, Melissa, visits from Indiana to celebrate Passover.

Live, learn and celebrate!

Erin ensures all residents feel at home. Everyone in the community is welcome to any and all holiday celebrations so that residents can partake and learn about other cultures and traditions.

“I spent time with Howard learning Jewish culture,” she says. “Howard and I sit down and go over what menu we will have” for certain holidays. “He has taught me a lot about bringing Jewish activities and holidays to Maravilla. We have dinners on site and work with Temple Solel and Rabbi John Linder and have even borrowed haggadot from them.”

As far as holidays go, Hanukkah is very special for Janice, who says she especially enjoys gathering together to light the menorah. Erin coordinates with the rabbis for activities such as dreidel decorating ideas and making potato latkes.

Life begins anew at Maravilla

The holidays are a large part of Maravilla’s culture, but the community also offers a variety of other amenities. “What makes Maravilla Scottsdale different, while we offer a full continuum of care, meaning that we offer independent living, assisted living and memory care, what folks at Maravilla Scottsdale really love and appreciate about the community is that it offers residents far more independence in their lifestyle than perhaps in a traditional CCRC (continuing care retirement community),” says Donna Thomas, director of corporate communications, Senior Resource Group, headquartered in Solana Beach, CA.

Additionally, “Maravilla Scottsdale is structured with very modest monthly fees in comparison to other CCRCs, because you are not prepaying for care,” Donna says. She adds that another unexpected plus is “the extraordinary architectural styling and design that is also uncommon.”

The community is open to seniors 62 and older with the average age of residents ranging from the upper 70s to the low 80s. Most are pretty active people who already live in Scottsdale or have relocated there, according to Donna. The community’s monthly fees include one daily meal, weekly housekeeping, all utilities, laundry service, transportation and so much more.

The people make the place

Originally from Chicago, Janice and Howard met in grammar school. Howard says, “I knew I wanted something to do with her. But as a young boy I didn’t understand what, so I pushed her down on the ice and pulled her hair.” Janice says she reported him to the teachers. “He tortured me,” she says. “He was a pest.”

After dating on and off for years, they married Aug. 2, 1947. Howard, a closet cowboy, and Janice moved to Scottsdale in 1975, acquired two horses and explored the Valley on horseback. They have three children: Alan, a veterinarian, lives in Chicago; David, an anesthesiologist, is in Seattle; and Melissa, who is vice chancellor of Indiana State University.

Although their children recommended Maravilla, Howard, a retired structural engineer, and Janice, a former secretary, loved the Maravilla lifestyle. The amenities and the people set it apart and make it a perfect choice for the couple, according to Janice.

To help make everyone at Maravilla feel truly at home and important, Erin works with all the residents to bring everyone’s traditions together. “I work with residents who are Jewish to brainstorm about their traditions and culture,” she says. “It’s a collaboration of everyone who lives here. We get together and talk about what we want to do with the holidays. The culture of Maravilla is changing based on Jewish residents. We are taking bits and pieces from different couples and what they’ve done with their families and bringing it together to make it a Maravilla tradition as we grow together as a family.”

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