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Claire Gorfinkel - Beyond the Village

By Blog Master
Posted: 04/02/2021
Tags: bios



Claire Gorfinkel describes herself as a “social change activist.” She traces her activism back to 1969 when she joined the anti-war movement, and the staff of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). In 1988 she became a fundraiser to promote the AFSC’s work for social justice.


She retired from the AFSC in 2001 and plunged into the interfaith peace and justice community in Los Angeles, participating in countless marches, demonstrations and other actions. But, starting in 2005 she wrestled with trying to discern the next phase of her life journey. She decided to go to seminary to “fill in the crevasses in my Jewish education.” She pursued a three-year Chaplaincy program at the Academy for Jewish Religion, during which time she recognized that she was intensely interested in issues of aging, death and dying. 


At the conclusion of her studies, she became the Chaplain of the Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center, a role she continues to fill. “I love being available to people during both joyful and challenging times in their lives – including times of illness and death. Being present for people at difficult times is not depressing to me. It is very powerful, rewarding and uplifting.” 


A recent example of her role at the Temple entailed coordinating delivery of complete Passover meals to people who were isolated during the holiday. “It was delightful to reach out to people and hear how happy they were to be thought of and included in the celebration.”


Claire’s other passion revolves around being outdoors, especially in and around Yosemite National Park. She traces her love of nature to childhood summers in the Sierras. For the past ten years Claire has volunteered with the Yosemite Conservancy as part of work crews that perform trail maintenance and habitat restoration in the park. She has enjoyed being able to explore different parts of the park and being part of a working community. “It is a way to give back to the National Park in appreciation for the enjoyment I have received.”


When the Pasadena Village was first being organized in 2012, Claire was making plans to move to a retirement community in Santa Rosa. The Village was her “back-up plan.” When the move fell through, she gratefully joined the Village. She thought “I don’t need any more friends …” but now she acknowledges that friends from the Village have been absolutely essential to maintaining her mental health during the pandemic.


Claire is very involved in Village life. In addition to being a Board member, she is chair of the Services Assessment Team (SAT) which pays extra attention to our frailest members. And she is a faithful member of the Hiking group, the Walking group, and the Altadena Foothills neighborhood group.


Clearly Claire can still be described as a social change activist who is using her life experiences to advocate for ways to redefine aging and ensure that older adults are equipped to make the most of the later years. She is an example of someone who is making a difference beyond the Village.

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