Friendship Circle luncheon supports range of memory loss programs at Sid Jacobson

Friendship Circle luncheon supports range of memory loss programs at Sid Jacobson
From our 2017 event, pictured are members of the Friendship Circle Luncheon, A Yellow Rose Event Committee, who united for the event which improves the lives of those afflicted with dementia and other chronic conditions at any age or stage and provides support and education for their families. (Photo courtesy of Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center)

When the Friendship Circle luncheon began 15 years ago, Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center was beginning to see a change in their members’ needs.

Assistant Director of Development Bridgette Troisi said the luncheons, started by Denise Silverberg, saw the need to expand the center’s existing day programs for members with Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia and Parkinson’s Disease to every week day.

Program participant engaged in mneme therapy art session. Mneme therapy is a specialized form of art therapy which combines singing, movement and painting to stimulate changes in the brain. (Photo courtesy of Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center)

“Unfortunately, we’re really seeing a need,” Troisi said. “The program began as an adult day program for seniors with dementia with three people. As we continue to serve our community, this is a population that is growing and their needs are growing.”

The center’s programs are tailored to the full spectrum of individuals with neurodegenerative diseases, from cognitive exercises and support groups for those in the early stages to structured day programs for frail and memory-impaired individuals suffering from more advanced staged disorders.

The Let’s Do Lunch program is a first-of-its-kind program designed for individuals in their 30s, 40s and 50s with young onset dementia and neurodegenerative illnesses and their children to have a night of pizza and fun, giving the children and parents time to bond with each other over shared experiences, Troisi said.

Troisi said the programs are as important for the members as well as their caregivers, who parents, spouses, children and professionals are given time to go to work, run errands or take a break from full-time caregiving responsibilities.

This year’s event, held at 11 a.m. June 6 at Old Westbury Golf and Country Club, is sold out, but Troisi said a silent auction is available online through 2:30 p.m. June 6 at

The event will honor Donna Schlessinger of Muttontown, who has been co-chairman of the luncheon for the past four years and was the first Yellow Rose Society co-chairman — a group that fundraises year-round for the center’s programs.

Attendees at a past Friendship Circle Luncheon, a Yellow Rose Event. (Photo courtesy of Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center)

Tikkun Olum Award recipient Gale Sitomer, who will also be honored at the luncheon, has worked tirelessly to support causes, including Special Olympics, United Cerebral Palsy, Mothers Voices, The Allen Stevenson School, Pediatric Aids and multiple breast cancer research organizations.

She also serves on the Board of The Michael Bolton Charities, whose current emphasis focuses on women and children affected by domestic violence in New York and Connecticut.

Master of Ceremonies Greg Kelly will present this year’s entertainment, television and Broadway star Laura Benanti, sponsored by Americana Manhasset.

Benanti currently stars in the TBS comedy “Detour” and has previously had roles in “Supergirl,” “Nashville,” “The Good Wife” and “Nurse Jackie.”

She has been a beloved Broadway figure since she made her debut in “The Sound of Music.” In 2008, she won the Tony Award, a Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award for her portrayal of Gypsy Rose Lee in “Gypsy” opposite Patti LuPone.

Journalist Paula Zahn will also make a special appearance at the luncheon.

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