My mother-in-law, Carole, has always been passionate about music.

She has spent summers listening to music at Tanglewood in the Berkshires and winters at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. She loves Broadway show tunes, Jewish music, and nursery rhymes. After each of her six grandchildren was born, she sang all her favorite children’s songs to them, from Little Red Caboose to Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star, and more.

Several years ago, Carole was diagnosed with dementia. Around the same time, I started playing guitar. Over these past few years, we have spent many afternoons together singing Jewish songs and familiar Hebrew prayers and songs from services and holidays, as I practiced guitar. And through that, we have developed this program together.

I watched to see which songs she remembered, which animated her expression, and which she sang along with me. She sang to my children, and now I sing to (and with) her. Carole has been my inspiration to share Jewish music with others who live with dementia as well as with their loved ones.

And Carole is not unusual. Studies show that appreciation of music is one of the very last things that remain with people who have dementia.

“Where words fail, music speaks.”  Hans Christian Andersen