Brandman Centers for Senior Care Playing a Pivotal Role for Seniors During the Pandemic and Beyond
From the earliest days of the pandemic, the Brandman Centers for Senior Care (BCSC), a Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), distinguished itself as one of the jewels in the crown of the Los Angeles Jewish Home. While many other, similar programs across the country closed their doors as COVID-19 reached crisis proportions, BCSC took all of the extra safety steps required to stay open, ensuring vulnerable seniors had ongoing access to the center, as well as critical care through the clinic, rehabilitation services and much more. "The program is called 'all-inclusive care,' and it really is," notes Susie Fishenfeld, BCSC executive director. "Despite the obstacles presented by COVID, we were able to get people medication and supplies at home; to bring them into our center—of course, following distancing and safety protocols—to keep them socializing; and to prepare stimulating, energizing activities to help them stay vibrant. What a difference it made for our seniors, their families, and caregivers during this difficult time!" Now in its ninth year, BCSC provides adult day healthcare and a full suite of healthcare services that enable seniors to live independently in the comfort of their own homes even when health challenges make them eligible for nursing home care. It has proven to be a winning formula that continues to garner praise from the seniors being served. In fact, the results are just in from a comprehensive customer satisfaction survey, conducted by noted social science research organization Vital Research, showing overall satisfaction with BCSC is at an impressive 90 percent. From meals to medical care, social workers to healthcare specialists, and transportation to activities, BCSC participants praised the program's offerings and expressed appreciation for the support they receive. "Our goal is to make seniors feel safe and well cared-for, and I am deeply gratified we have been able to deliver what they need throughout the pandemic," Susie says. "Whether we have been doing onsite therapy or using telehealth to reach seniors who haven't been able to come to the center, we have made it our mission to reach as many people in our community as possible." In recognition of its ongoing success, this year BCSC's PACE program was honored with the prestigious Organization of the Year award from the California National Association of Social Workers. The recognition, Susie says, is testament to BCSC's talented and dedicated team. "Throughout all of the COVID surges, and regulatory restrictions, our staff were here at BCSC, demonstrating their commitment to our participants and their families and their belief that our seniors deserve the very best care possible," she says. Senior populations have been on the rise nationwide for years, and with demand for BCSC services continuing to spike, the Jewish Home is expanding the program—which has been based in the San Fernando Valley—to LA's Westside. The newest BCSC facility will be located in the heart of West LA's Pico-Robertson neighborhood (9800 West Pico Blvd.) and is set to open later this summer. "We can't wait to bring our award-winning service to the Westside, as we seek to meet the needs of seniors across West LA and the surrounding areas of Los Angeles," Susie says. "We're busy recruiting staff, completing construction, and preparing to welcome our first participants, hopefully by July 1." To watch our new BCSC video and learn more about the PACE program, click here. For information about program participation or employment opportunities, contact us at (818) 774-8444.
Los Angeles Jewish Home Resident and Holocaust Survivor Frieda Thompson Celebrates Bat Mitzvah on 92nd Birthday
History was recently made at the Los Angeles Jewish Home, as beloved resident and Holocaust survivor Frieda Thompson celebrated her 92nd birthday on the same day she was called to the Torah for her Bat Mitzvah. The date marked another historic milestone: the 100th anniversary of Judith Kaplan, at age 12, becoming the first American girl to celebrate a Bat Mitzvah on March 18, 1922. Frieda, whose parents were murdered by the Nazis, still recalls that one of her mother's final actions was to ensure her brother was called to the Torah as a Bar Mitzvah even as there was chaos all around. Frieda studied for her Bat Mitzvah a few years ago, but COVID-19 prevented gathering as a community at that time. Now, joined by family who flew in from Colorado for the big day, Frieda celebrated her special occasion during the weekly Shabbat Eve Service, in the Weinberg Courtyard of the Jewish Home. She was surrounded by loving family, volunteer leadership, caring staff, and dozens of fellow Jewish Home residents. When asked what this day meant to her, Frieda responded, "Moses was loyal to his family and to the Jewish people. I, too, have always felt loyal to my family and to the Jewish People." In commenting on the significance of the event, Rabbi Karen Bender, the Jewish Home's chief mission officer, commented, "As a small child, Frieda was forced to raise her hand and call out 'Heil Hitler.' Today, her voice rings out as a cherished leader among her peers."
Thousands of Miles from Where They Were Born, These Seniors Found Their Way Home
At the Los Angeles Jewish Home, every resident has a rich and unique story. From diverse backgrounds and points of origin, they come together to create an exceptional community of seniors able to take advantage of a wide array of programs and services, and to maximize their enjoyment of each new day. Toby and Clara Silnik together are a case in point. Natives of Argentina, where Toby worked as a jeweler and Clara as a photographer, the Silniks left Buenos Aires for New York in 1963 in search of better economic opportunities. They settled in Queens, which served as their home base for over a decade—until, in 1975, they were ready for warmer weather and moved to sunny Southern California. In Los Angeles, Toby continued to ply his craft in jewelry making, while Clara pivoted, enrolling in business school, and ultimately working for a broad range of companies across the city. The pair lived a happy and fulfilling life in the San Fernando Valley and grew older together, appreciating each other's companionship and marveling at how far they had come from their South American roots. Eventually, living on their own grew harder. Clara, now 87, was afflicted with significant back pain and was unable to be on her feet for long periods of time, making cooking and keeping a house difficult. Toby, 91, had also slowed down, and they decided to make a move to the Jewish Home, which they had driven by for years on their way to and from their home in Northridge. "We liked the Jewish Home from the very first moment," Toby recalls of their move, which took place seven years ago. "We didn't have anyone—most of the people we knew, including our siblings in Argentina, had died—and the people at the Home took us in and were so welcoming." Clara echoes her husband's sentiments. "We're very happy here. Toby and I are both very busy—I knit things that are sold in the arts and crafts studio and Toby designs and makes beaded jewelry for sale to raise money for the Home," she says. "And we love the residents of our building; everyone at the Jewish Home is like family." Adrienne Berman is a newer member of the Jewish Home family, having only recently relocated to the Home in December. At 89, she is thrilled to have landed at the Home, though her own journey, like the Silniks', began far away. Born in England to an Anglican family, Adrienne always had the spirit of a wanderer. As a young adult, she moved to Paris to learn French, but her adventures ended up taking her further afield. "I always knew I wanted to get to America," she says. "After traveling through Canada for a year and a half with friends, I headed south to Los Angeles." She loved the city and the lifestyle, and when the time came for her to return to London, she went half-heartedly. Yet, she soon found a job as part of an American film crew shooting on location, and a producer and his wife took her under their wing and brought her back to the States for good. Back in California, Adrienne met and married Bayard Berman ("the love of my life," she sighs), a Jewish-American soldier who served in World War II and took advantage of the GI Bill to earn his law degree from Harvard. The couple adopted and raised two children, and Adrienne threw herself into involvement with a local synagogue, Leo Baeck Temple. "I wasn't raised Jewish, but I had a real affinity for Judaism," she says. "In fact, when I was 24 and single living in Los Angeles, I took a course in comparative religions at UCLA, and Rabbi Leonard Beerman, who led Leo Baeck Temple for 37 years, came to speak. He absolutely blew me away, and I remember thinking, 'That's for me.'" Adrienne loved the Jewish life she built, and she and Bayard were together until he passed away in 2003. She was left with limited financial resources. She lived with her daughter in her daughter's duplex in West Hollywood for a number of years after that, but she ultimately knew she would need additional support. "I had always hoped there would be a place for me at the Jewish Home, but then COVID hit, and everything was shut down," she said. Fortunately, during a lull in the pandemic, the Jewish Home was able to restart its admissions process, and Adrienne got the spot she had been dreaming of for so long. At the Home, she—like many of her fellow residents—receive government assistance to help cover the cost of care. "It's absolutely wonderful," she says. "I am so grateful to be here." At the Home, Adrienne, Toby and Clara have access to comprehensive care at all levels, from skilled nursing and adult day care to memory care and beyond. As the spread of COVID-19 in the community continues to slow, the Jewish Home is pleased to once again be accepting applications, with current openings available. To learn more, contact us at (822) 227-3745 or visit us online at www.jha.org.
When It Comes to Fighting COVID-19, the Los Angeles Jewish Home Is Recognized for Its Commitment to Moving Forward with Full Speed Ahead
From the outset of the pandemic, the Los Angeles Jewish Home pursued a proactive approach to COVID-19 management, taking critical steps to ensure the health and safety of all residents in our care and staff who work at the Home. Recently, these efforts were recognized with a certificate of achievement from the Health Services Advisory Group (HSAG), a Quality Innovation Network-Quality Improvement Organization under contract with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The award, part of HSAG's Full Speed Ahead! program, honors nursing homes that reach and maintain high vaccination levels in California and Arizona. Recipients of this prestigious distinction were the Jewish Home's Eisenberg Village campus and its highly regarded Joyce Eisenberg-Keefer Medical Center (JEKMC). In both places, the Home exceeded a 90 percent staff vaccination rate against COVID-19 for four consecutive weeks during the fourth quarter of 2021. It's a remarkable success, particularly when measured against the 74 percent of Californians who are fully vaccinated (78 percent in LA County), and it reflects a real commitment on the part of the Jewish Home to enhance the well-being of people throughout our community. Noah Marco, MD, the Home's chief medical officer, notes that the organization's accomplishment stems from the commitment of diverse stakeholders to nurturing an environment defined by mutual support. "Given the massive amount of misinformation there was at times regarding the vaccine, and the early challenges in obtaining sufficient doses, our staff's vaccination and booster rates are truly reflective of the relationships and trust that Jewish Home leadership has with its staff," Dr. Marco says. As special as HSAG's acknowledgement of specific areas of the Home is, it is actually reflective of low total numbers of infections in our facilities—not just in Eisenberg Village and at JEKMC, but across all of our campuses. "In this most recent wave, we have not had one serious case of COVID-19 among any of our residents," Dr. Marco points out. "The few residents who did get sick had very minimal symptoms, at most. Due in no small part to staff efforts, our residents have been able to continue enjoying the benefits of living at the Jewish Home and being part of the lives of those they love."
With Discussion and Delicacies, Los Angeles Jewish Home Marks Tu B’Shvat and Martin Luther King Jr. Day
This past January 17th played witness to a unique confluence of events: the simultaneous observation of Tu B'Shvat—the birthday of the trees—and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Los Angeles Jewish Home ushered in both holidays with a spirited and soulful celebration broadcast to all residents via closed circuit TV and YouTube. Hosted by Rabbi Karen Bender, the Home's chief mission officer, and Rabbi Ron Goldberg, Eisenberg Village campus rabbi, the event also featured special guest Pastor Kenneth Davis. The clergy members gathered virtually to discuss the meaning of the two holidays and to engage Jewish Home residents in reflecting on these two distinct, but in some ways complementary, legacies. To kick off the festivities, Pastor Kenneth offered insight into Martin Luther King Jr. Day, noting that, "it's really a celebration of a movement of people of goodwill to stand in the face of evil." Rabbi Bender related Dr. King's work to our society's present-day challenges around social justice, suggesting that, as we confront those challenges, each of us has an obligation not to stay silent. "We can't just hope things will get better," she said, "we have to see ourselves as participants" in building the world we want. Linking Tu B'Shvat and Martin Luther King Jr. Day together, Rabbi Ron said that, "MLK Day reminds us of how we're supposed to treat our fellow human beings, and Tu B'Shvat reminds us of how we have a responsibility to treat the physical environment and the earth around us."In preparation for the event, the Jewish Home's dietary department prepared a beautiful plate of fruit for clergy and residents alike; the fruit was delivered to residents in advance so they could engage in a tasting simultaneously with the rabbis during the broadcast. To mark the occasion, Rabbi Bender led all those participating in a shehecheyanu, the traditional Jewish prayer thanking God for keeping us alive, sustaining us, and enabling us to reach this occasion.
As Omicron Continues, Seniors of the Los Angeles Jewish Home Rely on Your Support
A Message from Dale SurowitzChief Executive Officer and PresidentDale Surowitz After two long years, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage. This most recent variant, Omicron, is impacting communities across the globe threatening not only our health but also our long-desired return to normalcy. At the Jewish Home, meeting the ongoing challenges presented by COVID continues to dramatically drive up expenses related to care. Additional staffing resources remain critical in maintaining our exceptional and highly regarded level of senior care. Ongoing need for personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, face shields, and masks all contribute to strains on our budget. Protecting and caring for our seniors is always job number one. The support of our donors is essential in making that possible. If you are able to contribute to the Jewish Home, we ask you to do so today. Your ongoing help brings safety and comfort to our most vulnerable seniors. Members of the Jewish Home team—including the dedicated staff who provide our residents with laundry services, housekeeping, and meals each day—continue working around the clock keeping our seniors healthy and secure. We are deeply grateful for their extraordinary efforts and for your ongoing commitment in support of their work. Your philanthropic gifts make a critical difference for every one of them. In the face of challenging times, like those the country is now confronting with Omicron, the Jewish Home quickly springs into action. Our experience over the past two years has demonstrated that taking decisive, proactive, preventive steps is the best way to mitigate COVID's potential impact. This action includes reaching out to you, our treasured supporters, and asking for your continued partnership so we can provide our seniors with the love and care they so richly deserve. On behalf of all of us at the Jewish Home, especially our cherished seniors, thank you for your partnership as we together work to make it safely through COVID-19 so our seniors can continue to find joy and contentment now and in the future.
Building Interfaith Connections
Twice each year, the students at Crespi Carmelite High School in Encino, a Catholic boys' high school, gather in the gym for an interfaith religious service joining Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish clergy together to celebrate the common roots of our shared humanity. In November, at Crespi's invitation, Eisenberg Village Campus Rabbi Ron Goldberg was on hand for one such service as a co-officiant, sharing his wisdom and tradition and representing the Los Angeles Jewish Home. Rabbi Ron co-led the service (which was attended by approximately 500 young men from the Catholic boys' school) with Crespi's Brother Roberto Reyes and Iman Suhail Mulla of the West Valley Islamic Center. Each member of the clergy presented a meditation on the topic of "gratitude," followed by a morning blessing for the student body from their respective faith traditions. "Crespi holds these services around the winter holidays and then again in the spring to coincide with Easter and Passover," Rabbi Ron says. "This was my third time being invited, and it's something I very much look forward to." During his presentation, Rabbi Ron offered the students a lesson on understanding the difference between gratitude and thankfulness. "As a practical demonstration, I asked if someone would hand me a pen; once he did, I thanked him," Rabbi Ron said. "As I told the students, that's being thankful; it's transactional. Whereas gratitude is how we live our lives—knowing we value the efforts of others for making our lives better, and that we have the same responsibility toward them." The Jewish Home-Crespi relationship began a number of years ago, when the high school started sending students to the Home for Sophomore Service Week, an opportunity for Crespi 10th graders to give back by volunteering. During non-COVID times, the students would come to campus to visit with residents of the Goldenberg-Ziman Special Care Center and other Jewish Home facilities. "We always tried to make it a memorable time for the students and for our residents," Rabbi Ron says. "The last time they were here, pre-COVID, we had a panel discussion with our Holocaust Survivors Group. It was an interactive event, and we made it available on YouTube. One of the things we did was show a famous photo of the Anschluss—Hitler taking over Austria. In it, Hitler is going down a main boulevard in Vienna, in an open-air convertible, surrounded by crowds. I told the Crespi students, ‘Two of the people you're going to meet at the Jewish Home today were actually in that crowd and saw Hitler in person.' The look of utter amazement on their faces was profound." Rabbi Ron says the Crespi students are always a welcome presence on the Jewish Home campus. "I love having them here because they bring a lot of interesting questions and ideas, and it allows me to bring my faith tradition to a group of people who otherwise wouldn't encounter it," he says. "It's also a joy for our residents, who benefit from the students' youthful energy and kind attention. I look forward to continuing to evolve this wonderful partnership!"
Los Angeles Jewish Home Residents Stitch Compassion and Community
Rose Geller, Claire Wilen, and Jane Spitzer For the ladies in the Needle Arts Group at the Los Angeles Jewish Home's Fountainview at Eisenberg Village, knitting is a powerful expression of love. Each Thursday, approximately 6-8 residents gather in the Creative Arts Center to give back to the community—and to enjoy a little 'schmoozing' along the way. The group was formed by Fountainview at Eisenberg Village resident Reggie Scheer in 2010, originally as a gathering of experienced knitters (or those interested in learning how to get started) who would bring items they had made –baby outfits, infant hats, and sweaters—for "show and tell". Soon after the group's establishment, its members decided to focus on volunteerism, using their dexterity and style to fashion articles of clothing for people in distress and need. As a first step, the group affiliated itself with Operation Gratitude, a high-impact nonprofit organization benefitting US military overseas. Needle Arts members knitted items for soldiers and made trips to the local armory, where they would help package goods being sent to troops abroad. Needle Arts Group member Claire Wilen, then reached out to her daughter-in-law, Lisa Wilen, to start a relationship with UCLA Health. Lisa is Director of Operations for Hematology/Oncology in the Community Practices division for Central and Southern California. Today, the group supports UCLA patients, who may lose their hair due to chemotherapy, with handmade caps to keep them warm. "The caps are well-received and greatly appreciated by our patients," Lisa says. "The patients are always so impressed with the quality and quantity of caps, which I distribute to our 19 oncology offices. In fact, I receive messages from our nurses when their stock is running low! What the Needle Arts Group does touches the hearts of all who benefit." One of those beneficiaries is Susan Bruer, a patient at UCLA Oncology Center in San Luis Obispo. "I recently picked out a very attractive hat made by (Needle Arts Group member) Rose Geller," Susan says. "The hats are very attractive and are very much appreciated during chemotherapy treatment." As Rose Geller sees it, she is doing more than just knitting a cap. "When a person is hurting and they get a handmade hat, it touches them, and they know someone cares," she says. Claire and fellow knitter Jane Spitzer, also participate in Myra's Knitting Mavens, a group at Valley Beth Shalom synagogue in Encino. Sometimes, the Needle Arts crew coordinates volunteer efforts with the Mavens. "One time, we got a special request to knit a cap for someone's brother who was very sick," Claire recalls. "He had requested his Oregon State school colors. I knitted the cap, which he loved, and later I learned the young man was doing much better following his treatments." Other projects have included knitting hats for Israeli army soldiers. "We had to be careful not to make them with bright colors, so the soldiers wouldn't stand out as targets when they were on duty," recalls Needle Arts Group member Sue Richter. They also helped create blankets for children being housed in immigration centers at the US border. The ladies in the group spend their own money to purchase yarn, but during the pandemic, they received abundant yarn donations, as many people were cleaning out their closets. "They are incredibly grateful for all the contributions of yarn," says Annette Weinberg, campus lifestyle and enrichment director at the Jewish Home's Eisenberg Village. For information about the Needle Arts Group, contact Annette at (818) 654-5535 or Annette.Weinberg@jha.org.
Unraveling the Machzor Mystery
When Los Angeles Jewish Home resident Barbara Young Leff attended a Shabbat service at the Home this fall, she could never have imagined it would connect her to her beloved family thousands of miles away. Yet, that is precisely what happened in a story that proves it is, indeed, a small world after all. As she arrived at services that Friday night, Barbara was provided a machzor (prayer book) and opened it to follow along with the liturgy. What she found on the inside cover was astonishing: a dedication from her first cousins Fred and Judi Young of Yardley, Pennsylvania, a town located on the Delaware River about 30 miles outside of Philadelphia. She immediately told her son, Steve Leff, and his wife, Cheryl. "When she told us about the label in the prayer book, we couldn't believe it," recalls Barbara's son, Steve Leff. "I thought, ‘Well, that's a coincidence; it must be another Fred and Judi." But Barbara was insistent, pointing out that the dedication also mentioned Congregation Brothers of Israel—Fred and Judi Young's synagogue. As Steve's wife Cheryl noted, that greatly diminished the possibility it was a different couple with the same name. "To get to the bottom of it, we reached out to Fred and Judi to investigate," she says. Barbara's and Fred's fathers were brothers, and though Barbara's family had moved from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles in the 1940s, the Leffs and the Youngs remained close, traveling back and forth for family visits and celebrations. Cheryl and Steve were still in touch with their cross-country cousins and quickly emailed them about Barbara's find. What they learned was that the Youngs had a history of dedicating prayer books as a way of supporting their synagogue. "We've belonged to our shul for 35 years; I'm a past president, and Judi served as president of the temple sisterhood for nearly a decade," Fred says. "Every few years, congregants are asked to donate to fund the purchase of new machzorim. So, we'd definitely done what Barbara said—but we had no idea how the books would have made it all the way out to California." Solving the rest of the "machzor mystery" would be the job of the Jewish Home's rabbi and chief mission officer, Karen Bender. Cheryl contacted her and laid out the facts of the still-incomplete story—and Rabbi Bender was ready with the missing piece. When new editions of prayer books are released, synagogues may decide to update their supply. Some then offer their old books to other synagogues, nursing homes and places in need. Such was the case with Congregation Brothers of Israel, which had placed an ad that was subsequently seen by the Jewish Home's Rabbi Ron Goldberg. He brought it to Rabbi Bender's attention, who was delighted with the prospect of acquiring new machzorim for the Home. "Their synagogue was giving away exactly the machzorim we needed, and they were in excellent condition. In fact, they were actually an update for us, which was fantastic," Rabbi Bender says. "The books were free; we just had to pay the price of shipping the freight here to LA." "What are the odds that, of all the prayerbooks in the world, my cousin Barbara in California would end up with one that we had dedicated, across the country, years before?" Fred asks. "I said to Judi, ‘We should go out and buy a bunch of lottery tickets right now!'" As unlikely as the story was, Steve says it was, in some ways, fitting. "My mom, who has a master's degree in library science from USC, was the creator and first director of the Stephen S. Wise Temple library. Books—particularly Judaic books—have always been a huge part of her life," he says. "It seems appropriate that this small-world story would revolve around the dedication in a Jewish book!" Fred concurs. "When I first heard about it, I assumed Barbara had opened the cover to see if the book was overdue—like a librarian's instinct!" he laughs. Not long after Barbara's initial discovery, Rabbi Bender presented a copy of the machzor to Barbara to keep as her own. Barbara's pleasure was evident, and she beamed from ear to ear. "Last time we saw her, she was carrying the book around and explaining the whole story to her doctor," Cheryl says. "She was thrilled by it all and will readily share the tale with anyone who will listen!"