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At Los Angeles Jewish Health, Short-Term Rehab Delivers Long-Term Results
In the world of short-term rehabilitation for seniors, not all programs or facilities are created equal. Given its breadth of services, depth of experience, and track record of results, Los Angeles Jewish Health's high-impact short-term rehab is in a class by itself. Under the supervision of Director of Rehabilitation Services Daniel Persichetti, the offerings are robust. "We have seven distinct short-term rehab operations at Los Angeles Jewish Health, each one geared to meet diverse seniors' needs," he says. "It's terrific because it means we're able to help with a wide range of challenges, getting people back on their feet and ready to reclaim mobility and function that may have been compromised due to a recent hospital stay or illness." The programs include short-term, skilled nursing facility-based rehab at Los Angeles Jewish Health's Grancell Village campus; a PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) clinic at the Brandman Centers for Senior Care, also located in Grancell Village; and outpatient services on the Eisenberg Village campus and at Fountainview at Gonda Westside, in Playa Vista. "When older adults are released from the hospital, they may not be quite ready to return home, so they come stay with us for a bit, instead," Daniel says. "Maybe they can't walk very far or have difficulty climbing out of bed. Perhaps they've just had a hip or knee replacement, or they've suffered a stroke. We equip them with the right tools to build up their strength and recover their independence." The outpatient clinic at Eisenberg Village is also open to members of the general public, who can come to campus to leverage Los Angeles Jewish Health's renowned expertise in senior care. "Our speech therapists and physical therapists are available for things like memory and cognition training, improving balance and gait, and refining overall strength and function," Daniel says. "As those in need of these services discover just how good our care is, more and more people from the greater community are relying on us every day." In addition to having access to an outpatient clinic, seniors participating in PACE at the Brandman Centers may benefit from home visits, as well. "Sometimes, our therapy staff will go to a participant's home to make sure they have the tools they need to help in their recovery. For instance, they may evaluate if a grab bar is in the right spot for the shower, or ensure the person has the appropriate ramp to make their house accessible—essentially, making equipment recommendations to help seniors live in their homes for a longer period of time," Daniel says. He and his team of about 30 full-time therapists (plus 20 or so per diem staff) also treat longer-term Los Angeles Jewish Health residents. "Sometimes, folks in assisted living may experience a decline—say after a fall. Our caring team provides them with therapy two or three days a week to help them improve," he says. "One of the things that makes our therapy so successful is that, because it's in-house, we develop good collaborative relationships with nurses and other Los Angeles Jewish Health staff, so we can work together as a team to get residents better in a timely manner." As Daniel sees it, these partnerships are a key distinguishing feature of rehab services at Los Angeles Jewish Health. "I've worked for many companies over the past 17 years, starting out in acute care and then moving on to aquatic therapy, outpatient care, and acute rehab. But working for Los Angeles Jewish Health is like night and day. Not only is there a real family atmosphere here, but also, the primary focus is different: It is about serving people and the community, rather than solely on generating financial gain." For Daniel, one of the most gratifying parts of the job is watching people start to feel empowered when they realize they can do things on their own. "We see so many success stories," he says, "and I'm proud of the gains our seniors make with our support." Among Los Angeles Jewish Health's satisfied short-term rehab customers is David Goldstein, who sought intensive physical therapy after fracturing his humerus (upper arm bone). "Los Angeles Jewish Health staff are responsive, they know what they're doing, and they make you feel like you're in your own home," he says. "Although being here is only temporary, they've done everything possible to make me comfortable and happy. I chose the right place, and I would highly recommend it."
The Art of Making Crafts at Los Angeles Jewish Health
Arlene Bercu Los Angeles Jewish Health is renowned for advancing the health of older adults across our community. Its commitment to raising the bar on compassionate, high-quality care includes a dedicated focus on emotional wellness—engaging seniors in creative, stimulating activities that help them find enjoyment in every day. Los Angeles Jewish Health's Arts and Crafts Program is a prime example, bringing people together to give life to new ideas and make memories along the way. The Arts and Crafts Room is a bustling hub of energy at Los Angeles Jewish Health, offering residents resources, guidance, and camaraderie as they develop their creative talents and produce a wide range of beautiful handcrafts. "It's where we host instructors for oil-based painting classes, and where we teach knitting, quilting, crocheting, and all the various needlecrafts," says Annette Weinberg, Los Angeles Jewish Health's campus lifestyle and enrichment director for Eisenberg Village. "The studio is packed full of every possible supply material for any project a resident would like to do." Staffed by Arts and Crafts Director Radka Falk, the Arts and Crafts Room enables residents to express themselves while achieving a state of emotional Zen. "Creativity is soothing for the soul, and this is such an uplifting environment," Annette says. "People often spend hours here, and their tasks take them away to a whole other place." Norma Garber Norma Garber, 89, is one of those people, a lifelong seamstress who trained as a young girl in England to be a high-end dressmaker. She volunteered at Los Angeles Jewish Health before becoming a resident about four and a half years ago and notes that, even then, she knew the Arts and Crafts Room would be where she would spend much of her time once she moved in. "I like quilting and making pillows, challah covers, and table runners. I love everything I do here; I call it my ‘happy room,'" Norma laughs. "Radka is amazing—there isn't anything she doesn't know how to do. And I get to spend time with my friends, like Casey Joseph, another quilter." Toby and Clara Silnik Casey, 89, enjoys the shared sense of purpose the Arts and Crafts Room inspires. "Spending time with Norma is great: It's nice to have someone to talk to who understands what you're trying to do and can help you map it out," she says. "I love the creativity and beauty of using my hands to make something. The idea that one of my quilts is keeping a baby, a child, or an adult cozy, just warms my heart." In addition to nurturing residents' creative impulse, the Arts and Crafts Room also welcomes visitors interested in viewing—and even purchasing—some of the goods made on the premises. A gallery of canvases painted by residents is on permanent display, and a small, on-site store offers a number of resident-made items for sale. Director Radka Falk "The money we make from the shop gets reinvested into the gift shop so we can continue buying supplies for residents to craft with!" Annette says. Frequenters of the Arts and Crafts Room are often joined by Los Angeles Jewish Health volunteers, who bring a variety of craft projects with them for residents to complete. "The items you can find in the shop are just gorgeous. But, even more importantly, making those items does absolute wonders for our residents' well-being," Annette says. "When they're here, their spirits soar."
Under the Jacaranda Tree: A Story of Love
By Glenda Hahn Many lasting and loving relationships are formed at Los Angeles Jewish Health. During this season of love, we want to share this very special and touching story written by Glenda Hahn, the daughter of Mary Freeman. My mom, Mary, came from a marriage that offered little by way of love or affection. We were led to believe my parents stayed together for the stability of their children. When my father passed away in 1995, my mom felt like a bird let out of a cage. This was her opportunity to spread her wings and follow her dreams to emigrate from her native South Africa to join me and my family in the United States. My kind and generous husband offered her employment, and thus an avenue to support herself. Mary was independent, caught buses to wherever she wanted to go, made new friends, and created a great and happy life for herself. When Mom eventually needed more assistance with daily living, we were fortunate to find an excellent facility for her: Los Angeles Jewish Health, formerly the Los Angeles Jewish Home. The slight resistance she initially gave us quickly dissipated when she realized this was a place for her to enjoy playing cards and bingo, learn the computer, and enjoy movies and other activities. She was social, made new friends, and soon realized she had come to the right place. I’m not sure how Mary and Cyril first connected, but it could have been in discussion of the beautiful jacaranda tree that sat in the gardens of Eisenberg Village, located on one of the Los Angeles Jewish Health campuses. Coincidentally, Cy was also from South Africa, and the tree brought back memories for both of them of the beautiful trees, with their magnetic purple blooms, lining the streets of Johannesburg and Pretoria. The shade of this beautiful tree would later become their meeting place—a spot where they would sit, hand-in-hand, admiring the blossoms and reminiscing about life in the "old country." It was the start of a love story between two nonagenarian expats from South Africa. Not only did the twosome discover they were from the same country; they came from small cities in close proximity to each other. In fact, Mary’s husband had gone to Cyril’s high school! Now, many decades later, they were sitting cuddled up in a place over 10,000 miles away. Mary and Cy (as he was called) became known to the residents of Los Angeles Jewish Health as "a couple." They would spend their days in the Newman Lounge watching TV, or in front of the Newman building, where more often than not, at least one of them would doze off. They would reminisce about life in South Africa, talk about their children, and quote excerpts from Hamlet, which they had both studied in high school. After some time, it became clear Mary required more care. The decision to move her to skilled nursing was a difficult one because separating her from her beau would be hard on both of them. Yet, the separation only brought them closer. With the exception of mealtime, Cy spent nearly every waking moment trekking over to the Max Factor Building to be with Mary. It seemed nothing was going to keep these two apart…until COVID hit. Quarantine meant they would no longer be able to spend time together. For nearly eight months, they were separated by the virus. Would their relationship be able to weather this storm? When the pandemic began to wane, Mary, whose memory and cognition had deteriorated, moved to the Goldenberg-Ziman Special Care Center. As it happened, Cy was also suffering from the early stages of dementia – and he, too, moved to the G-Z Building. American poet Maya Angelou wrote, "Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope." Suddenly, the duo were together again, and the connection was still there. Both were hard of hearing, which made verbal communication difficult, but they had each other, their memories, and their mutual longing for South Africa and its beautiful jacaranda trees. Mary passed away several months ago. This spring, as the jacaranda at Los Angeles Jewish Health begins to bloom, I’ll think with gratitude of my mother, and of Cy, and of the wonderful time they spent together.
At Los Angeles Jewish Health, B'not Mitzvah to Remember
Judith Karon, Casey Joseph, Marcia Mass and Sue Solender with Rabbi Ron Goldberg The great dramatist and author George Bernard Shaw famously declared that "Youth is wasted on the young." But Shaw clearly never met the residents of Los Angeles Jewish Health, whose incredible energy, dynamism, and desire to learn prove it's always a good time to engage in a journey of self-discovery. Last month, four Los Angeles Jewish Health residents celebrated their b'not mitzvah. In a ceremony typically celebrated by 12 or 13 year olds, the 4 women stood in front of their community at Eisenberg Village to read from the Torah and offer their interpretations of its text, in the process honoring the faith of their forebearers and affirming their commitment to Jewish peoplehood. For Casey Joseph, Judith Karon, Marcia Mass and Sue Solender, deciding to study for an adult bat mitzvah required a leap of faith on multiple levels. "Whether you're a teenager or a woman somewhat past that, it takes a lot of courage to stand up in front of family and friends and chant words in an unfamiliar language, becoming links in a chain that extends all the way back to Mt. Sinai," says Rabbi Ron Goldberg, rabbi of Los Angeles Jewish Health's Eisenberg Village campus. "I am just thrilled for these women, whose determination and hard work were on display for everyone to see." Rabbi Goldberg officiated at the ceremony, the outgrowth of an adult b'nai mitzvah program he put together with Chief Mission Officer for Los Angeles Jewish Health Rabbi Karen Bender. He says most female residents of Los Angeles Jewish Health never had the opportunity to read from the Torah as young adults—and that he and Rabbi Bender are thrilled to help them engage with Jewish liturgy and tradition. "Today our female residents—who as girls may have been denied a chance to do what their male counterparts were doing—get to stand up and speak for themselves," Rabbi Goldberg says. Marcia Mass with President-CEO Dale Surowitz Making her own decisions about what she could do was particularly important to Casey Joseph, 69, a native of Pittsburgh who moved to Los Angeles with her family when she was 11. "I was always interested in learning about Judaism, but I was always told ‘no' because it was something reserved for boys," she says. "I never stopped thinking about it and knew it would be important for me to do at some point. Being at Los Angeles Jewish Health, I realized now was my moment, and I reached out and grabbed it." Sue Solender, 80, felt similarly. "When I was in grade school, the Jewish community in my hometown of Minneapolis built a Hebrew school, and I wanted to go, but my mother told me I couldn't," she says. "So, I waited and waited, and once I arrived at Los Angeles Jewish Health, I decided that, if they ever had an adult bat mitzvah study group, that would be a sign." For Marcia Mass, 81, the bat mitzvah was a chance to connect with her roots. "My parents moved out to Los Angeles to get away from the orthodoxy of my father's family, so they were not religious, and we never did anything special to mark the holidays," she recalls. "When I had my own daughters, I decided it was important for them to be raised as Jews and to learn about their culture, and both of them had bat mitzvahs." Yet, Marcia never fully explored her own Judaism, and Los Angeles Jewish Health opened her up to the possibility. "I studied hard, and I'm so thrilled it came together and that I was able to share it with three other strong women," she says. "It was a marvelous experience." Casey Joseph with Chairman Andrew Berman This was the second adult bat mitzvah for Judith Karon, 83. In 1995, she studied with her rabbi in Duluth, Minnesota, and took advantage of the bat mitzvah event as an occasion to have a family reunion. "People came from all over the country, and I did the whole thing: Torah reading, haftorah, big party with music. It was special. But this time, at Los Angeles Jewish Health, it was much more spiritually significant to me," Judith says. "Part of what was so wonderful was that the four of us developed a closeness as we learned and prepared together," she continues. "Also, when I got up in front of the congregation, I saw the place was packed, and I was just blown away. All of our friends were there, and our fellow residents, and the staff, and even the chairman of the board of directors and the CEO." During the ceremony, Los Angeles Jewish Health CEO and President Dale Surowitz presented the b'not mitzvah with Kiddush cups; Andrew Berman, chairman of Los Angeles Jewish Health's board, handed out commemorative certificates to mark the occasion. Their presence was just one of the many things that made the warmth and excitement in the room that day palpable, Judith says. "There was just this incredible sense of community. You really had to be there to experience it!"
Susie Fishenfeld Named Vice President of Brandman Centers for Senior Care
Following nearly a decade of dedicated service at Los Angeles Jewish Health, Susie Fishenfeld has been promoted to the role of vice president of the Brandman Centers for Senior Care (BCSC), a Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly. Fishenfeld, who has more than 35 years of experience in healthcare administration, began her tenure at BCSC in November 2014. In her role, Fishenfeld is responsible for corporate program operations, regulatory compliance, fiscal management, quality improvement, patient and family satisfaction, strategic planning, and program development and expansion. In commenting on the promotion, Larissa Stepanians, chief operations officer for Los Angeles Jewish Health, shared, "Susie is richly deserving of this promotion. She is widely recognized in the field of senior care for her energy, enthusiasm, and can-do spirit. Under her leadership, the participant census of our PACE program continues to grow, providing even more seniors in the San Fernando Valley with our award-winning senior care. Even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Susie ensured our Center stayed open to care for those who needed a safe place to go and receive services. Thanks to her dedicated service, we continue to grow, and, in fact, we plan to open a new Brandman Centers for Senior Care location on Pico Blvd., on LA’s Westside, this summer." Prior to coming to Los Angeles Jewish Health, Fishenfeld served 17 years as senior general manager for Vitas Healthcare Corporation, Vitas Innovative Hospice Care. Before Vitas, Fishenfeld had a 13-year tenure at Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center, where for her last five years she served as vice president of patient care services. Fishenfeld completed her undergraduate education at the University of California, Berkeley, and received a bachelor of science in nursing from the University of California, San Francisco. She holds a master’s degree in nursing from California State University, Long Beach in Administration and as a critical care clinical nurse specialist. Fishenfeld has been involved with many professional organizations throughout the state of California, most recently, CalPACE where she is a member on the board and prior officer serving as secretary. Holding prior committee positions include both the California Hospice and Palliative Care Association and the California Association for Health Services at Home. She has also served on the executive committee for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Association. Fishenfeld resides in the city of Calabasas with her husband Moe. She has two children and four grandchildren.
The Three Musketeers of Los Angeles Jewish Health
When Talat Barahmand, Iran Diansedgh, and Zaghi Kohan Ghadosh moved into Los Angeles Jewish Health, they expected to find vital assistance in meeting their daily critical care needs. What they did not expect was to find fast friendships that would ease their transition to a new living situation and fill their days with joy. The three women arrived at Los Angles Jewish Health not knowing one another: Iran about six years ago, Talat around five years ago, and Zaghi, most recently, approximately, three years ago. Sharing a common background (all are originally from Iran) and a common language (Farsi), they quickly connected and have been inseparable ever since. Iran and Zaghi are roommates in the Mark Taper building; Talat lives across the hall. Rabbi Karen Bender, chief mission officer at LA Jewish Health, refers to the friends as "the Three Musketeers." "They spend as much time together as possible, and it's just amazing," she says. "What a gift they have received and given to each other by finding best friends at this stage of life!" Iran, 100, is a native of Teheran; she and her husband fled after the Islamic Revolution. They landed in Dallas, Texas, where they had a daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren, and spent roughly 15 years living there before making their way to Southern California, home to their other two children. Her husband passed away in 2007, and she lived on her own until her health and advancing age made independent living impossible. As Iran tells it, her experience at Los Angeles Jewish Health has been excellent – the people and the service have all been wonderful. She is especially grateful to be able to spend her days alongside Zaghi and Talat. "We do everything together: playing bingo, attending Shabbat services, listening to music," she says. "We're all really happy." Of course, there are occasional disagreements; all three women prefer to see themselves as being in the right. "We may argue, but there are no actual fights!" Iran laughs. Zaghi, 90, has been in the United States for two decades. She came from the Iranian city of Shiraz, which she fled because of the increasing intolerance of the authoritarian government. In Iran, Zaghi's family was quite wealthy, but during the revolution they lost everything: their home, the two cinemas they owned, and extensive property holdings. Los Angeles made sense as a destination because two of her five children lived here. It was difficult to adapt to an unknown environment, but with her family's support she built a new life. "I miss Iran, but I like California," she says. When mobility issues made it clear she could no longer live without assistance, she moved into Los Angeles Jewish Health and was thrilled to meet people with similar backgrounds. "My friends are the best, and I love talking with them," she says. "We chat, we watch Persian TV, and sometimes, as Iran pointed out, we argue. But we always stay close." At 86, Talat is the youngest of the group. She and her husband, along with one of their three daughters, emigrated from Iran in 1996 as a result of religious persecution, making their way to Los Angeles, where their other daughters and their son already lived. It was a difficult move, but they were thrilled to be reunited with family and away from a repressive regime. After Talat's husband died in 2011, her deteriorating vision made living alone a health hazard, and she chose to take up residence at Los Angeles Jewish Health. The decision, she says, was a good one. "I love it here. They take such good care of me, and everyone is very friendly." Talat is extremely outgoing, and having her friends as a social outlet has been a godsend. "Zaghi, Iran, and I all help each other. We're all Jewish, and it's so nice to be able to speak Farsi and to have people I get along with so well." Rabbi Bender says the Three Musketeers' friendship is as special as the women themselves. "When I greet them 'Shabbat Shalom,' they will often respond not only by saying, 'Shabbat Shalom,' but also by giving me a blessing. It's truly an honor to have three such wonderful women living here with us." Seeing Zaghi, Talat, and Iran interact every day has led Rabbi Bender to marvel at how fortunate they are to have formed such a tight-knit bond. "If I spoke Farsi, I would petition to become their Fourth Musketeer!" she says.
When It Comes to Serving Seniors, Los Angeles Jewish Health Keeps Up the PACE
Life expectancy in the United States is on the rise. As Americans live longer, older adults are increasingly searching for ways to age in place—and to remain in their own homes for as many years as they can. Enter the Brandman Centers for Senior Care (BCSC), a Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). Launched by Los Angeles Jewish Health and generously funded by Joyce and Saul (of blessed memory) Brandman, BCSC immediately distinguished itself as the San Fernando Valley's first PACE program. Today they serve 320 senior participants, providing them a one-stop shop for meeting their comprehensive health needs. The Brandman Center's primary objective is to help seniors remain as independent as possible, living safely in their homes and communities. It works to achieve this goal through the provision of well-coordinated, highly-personalized, quality care, with a broad range of services that promotes seniors' health and fills their days with meaning and joy. "Our offering truly is all-inclusive, covering everything from medical care, specialty services, and rehabilitative care, to nutritional counseling, nursing and preventive services, medications, medical supplies, and more," says Susie Fishenfeld, BCSC executive director. "One of the best parts is that participants never get a bill; as long as they use our providers, we handle everything." With an interdisciplinary staff that includes a primary care physician; medical specialists; a nurse; social worker; occupational, speech, and physical therapists; personal care attendants; and a dietician, BCSC is open five days each week, year-round (excluding holidays) from 8:30 am to 5 pm. Seniors become eligible when they are age 55 or older, live in the BCSC service area, and have been deemed by the team at BCSC and the California Department of Health Care Services to require nursing home-level of care. Unlike with regular health insurance, such as Medicare or MediCal, there is no specific enrollment period for BCSC's PACE program; seniors can sign up at any time. There are other key differences, as well. "We provide more than just what people typically think of as 'healthcare,' like doctor appointments and prescriptions," Susie notes. "So often, seniors are just sitting home, watching TV all day; we actually get them out and bring them to our center, where there are all kinds of wonderful activities for them. To see how they thrive when they get here is really quite amazing." Evelyn Frenkel, BCSC's director of marketing, agrees that, when it comes to BCSC, seeing really is believing. "We just had a large holiday gathering, with music and dancing," she says. "As people arrived, you could tell they were just lighting up inside. It was wonderful." Part of what makes BCSC so dynamic is its diversity. "We have so many languages and cultures represented, and all religions," Susie says. "Forty percent of our participants are Hispanic. And the diversity goes beyond background: Some participants work; some drive. Everyone is at a different stage in life, yet they all come together to create this beautiful community." The census at BCSC, which continues to grow, is now the highest since the program started in 2013—and talking to participants, it's easy to see why. "I love all of the activities, I love the dancing and the music. I just love it all," says Rose Robinett, who has been coming to BCSC since 2016. One of BCSC's most ardent fans was William Kreiling, a devoted participant who has since passed away. His expert summary of the prevailing sentiment about BCSC: "If you look all over LA, you are not going to find a better organization than this one."
A Life of Resilience—An Inspiration for All
Katherina "Katy" Schaffer knows what it means to face extraordinary odds. But she has also experienced, first-hand, the triumph of perseverance. Over the course of her 97 years, Katy has faced unimaginable challenges, including time spent in three Nazi concentration camps. Through them all, she has proven time and again she has the strength of spirit to carry on—and, above all else, that she is a true survivor. A resident of Los Angeles Jewish Health's Grancell Village for the past year, Katy's story starts in 1925, in pre-war Czechoslovakia. One of six siblings, at the age of 19 she traveled to a neighboring town to become an apprentice seamstress. As Europe fell under the cloud of Nazi threat, her parents sent word that she should return home. On her way back, at a train station in the company of her older sister, Katy was abducted by the Germans. So began an odyssey that would subject her to the unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust and leave her at death's door. "When my mom was liberated, in 1945, she remembers airplanes dropping little bags of cheese and bread. Some people she knew in the camps, who were on the brink of starvation, ate so much that they died—their systems couldn't handle all that sustenance at once," says Katy's daughter, Erit Siegal. "Fortunately, she restrained herself, and she eventually made it to a hospital, where she recuperated for a long time." After she was liberated, Katy traveled to her native Czechoslovakia, only to find that, aside from two sisters and a brother, her entire family had perished in the Holocaust. She and her siblings eventually emigrated to Israel, where she met her husband Otto and gave birth to Erit. By then, one sister had moved again—this time, to Los Angeles—and Katy and Otto decided to join her. Katy and her family—which soon expanded to include a son, George—thrived in Southern California. Otto worked in the garment industry; Katy was a homemaker who cooked, sewed clothing, and provided a warm and loving environment for her children in the house they purchased in the San Fernando Valley in 1963. Despite the hardships she had endured, she found fulfillment and success. "I always tell people to learn from their parents and neighbors, to follow Jewish values, to help the poor, and to be a mensch," she says. Husband Otto passed away in 2011; Katy stayed in their home for another decade or so. Among the hobbies she took up during this period was volunteering for seven years at Los Angeles Jewish Health (LAJH), in the Arts and Crafts Room on the Eisenberg Village campus. "I've always felt that, wherever I can help, I help," she says. "Giving back to LAJH was a way for me to contribute." Katy came to Los Angeles Jewish Health as a resident via our short-term rehabilitation program after falling and fracturing her spine. While in rehab, the vascular disease she had in her leg progressed, ultimately resulting in the amputation of her leg. She moved into Los Angeles Jewish Home full-time just over 12 months ago. "Mom has always been incredibly active, and losing her leg was so traumatic," Erit recalls. "But it's kind of miraculous how she's adapted and adjusted. I think her experience in the war contributed to her being able to deal with her current situation—these survivors have something special in them that has enabled them to carry on." Today, Katy keeps her mind and body active and agile through knitting, doing word searches, and reading. Already during her brief tenure at LAJH, she has developed a reputation for her trademark resilience and positive energy. "Katy is an extraordinary person, and it's an honor to have her residing here at Los Angeles Jewish Health," says Rabbi Karen Bender, LAJH's chief mission officer. "She never allowed the atrocities she witnessed and experienced during the Shoah to interfere with her ability to embrace life, and it's no wonder all of the staff adore her. I personally love spending time with Katy. Her smile inspires me!" For her part, Katy is grateful for the blessings of family and the benefits of living at Los Angeles Jewish Health. "My children and four grandchildren keep me going," she says. "And I appreciate LAJH: I like the kosher food, I've made friends with my roommate, and Dr. Marco and my nurses are right here to help take care of me. I love it here—other places are just not the same!"
Celebrating the Wonder and the Miracle of Chanukah
To borrow from Adam Sandler, "Chanukah is the Festival of Lights. Instead of one day of presents, we have eight crazy nights". From those words of wisdom, we get the questions to address. What is this Festival of Lights? Why eight nights? In addition, while sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) and latkes (potato pancakes) are awesomely delicious, why are they associated with Chanukah? In the larger universe of Jewish holidays, Chanukah is known to be a minor observance. It certainly is not a holiday or observance on the level of Passover or Sukkot, let alone Rosh Hashanah. Even as we know Chanukah is a minor festival, Chanukah is beloved and its existence is widely known, if not understood. Here in America, Chanukah gets extra exposure because of the proximity to the Christmas holiday. Christmas is always December 25 but Chanukah follows the Jewish-Lunar calendar and can occur as early as Thanksgiving or fall in the later part of December. In that range of dates, Chanukah falls during what is commonly called the Holiday Season and becomes incorporated into it. That takes us to a uniquely American ideal about the make-up of our nation. We inscribe on the coins of our currency E Pluribus Unum- or in the English "Out of many one". In America, we celebrate being united; additionally we treasure what makes each part of the American mosaic unique. As the majority of Americans observe one holiday, Americans of the Jewish faith observe Chanukah. At its core, Chanukah is the celebration of maintaining that uniqueness. In the days following the breakup of the empire of Alexander the Great, the dominant culture in the Mediterranean world was the Greek culture. It would have been easy and made their lives simpler for the Jews of those times to be swallowed by that Greek culture. Yet, they refused, they rebelled against assimilation and they elected to fight to maintain the faith and identity they inherited from their ancestors. At the conclusion of this struggle to remain unique in a larger culture, it was time to dedicate the great Temple in Jerusalem. Part of the dedication or Chanukah was lighting the menorah. On hand was only enough oil to last 1 day. It would take several days for more oil to be procured. Rabbinic legend is that the oil that should have lasted for 1 day actually lasted eight. For that reason, we light candles in ascending numbers each night, to remember this miracle of the oil lasting. In observing Chanukah, we celebrate our unique identity in a larger world. Jews chose to retain the faith of those who came before us and treasure that faith and uniqueness in a diverse world. Finally and very importantly, why the latkes and sufganiyot? They are both linked to the miracle of the oil, as they both are fried foods. When I was a student in Israel, I marveled at the wide variety of sufganiyot-doughnuts on sale in every store and bakery. Naturally, I had to sample a cross section. My favorite? The chocolate frosted-halvah filled doughnut was the winner. Latkes are potato pancakes of course. There are many different recipes for them. You can use potatoes, sweet potatoes or even zucchini. Among the many toppings can be applesauce, sugar or what I recommend, sour cream. All are wonderful, all tasty without a doubt. Nevertheless, what is valued is to pause, gather together to bless and light the candles, sing the traditional songs and celebrate the wonder and miracle of Jewish identity in our day and time.