From Generation to Generation at Los Angeles Jewish Health
As a leading national expert in the provision of senior care, Los Angeles Jewish Health has found a secret to graceful aging: youth. Through an expanded focus on intergenerational programming, the organization is bringing diverse groups of young people to its San Fernando Valley campuses to lift seniors' spirits and allow them to see the world through new eyes again. It's all part of an ongoing focus at Los Angeles Jewish Health to identify innovative ways to enhance residents' lives. Commenting on the successful program, Chief Executive Officer and President Dale Surowitz says that "The goal is to inspire our seniors and to give them a reason to get excited about each day. I've seen first-hand how interactions with young people can light up our residents and fill them with enthusiasm. It is truly a wonderful thing to behold." The benefit, Dale notes, is mutual. "Our residents get so much from being with younger folks—and the younger folks are also enriched in so many ways," he says. "Hearing about seniors' experiences, and sharing in their wisdom, adds meaning to their lives, as well." Now that many of the pandemic health regulations have lifted, intergenerational in-person events are coming back to Los Angeles Jewish Health in a big way. "We're scheduling visits from youth groups, preschoolers, synagogues, primary schools, and more," says Stacy Orbach, the organization's director of volunteer services. "There's so much going on here; we've never had so many wonderful programs happening on both campuses at once!" Examples of these intergenerational programs abound: In February, to celebrate Sweetheart's Day (Los Angeles Jewish Health's version of Valentine's Day), fifth graders and parents from Brentwood School stopped by to sing to residents and join them in arts and crafts projects. At Purim, preschoolers from a nearby Israeli gan (daycare) came to celebrate, arriving in costume and dancing for residents. Over Passover, a seventh-grade class from Temple Judea visited, chatting with residents and engaging them in activities. That same class returned a few weeks later, for Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day), playing Israeli bingo with residents and continuing conversations they started during their first visit. "I saw one of the residents hugging a boy from Temple Judea. When I asked her about it later, she said, ‘He remembered me from last time! It made me feel so good, I had to give him a hug.' Those are the moments we're trying to create, helping spark joy for our seniors that brightens up their days," says Julie Lockman-Gold, special programs coordinator. Those moments are also powerful for visiting students. "We had an elementary school class come from Heschel Day School. As the students were leaving, one of them said to me, ‘Don't be surprised when you see me here volunteering when I'm older, because I loved this!'" Stacy says. Members of a music club from Taft High School recently stopped by to perform swing and jazz numbers for the residents. "One of our seniors was just dancing in her chair like crazy," Julie recalls. "She came up to the students afterward and told them, ‘I'm 98, and I'm blind, but I can hear. Many years ago, I was a singer. Your songs are bringing me back, and this is such a treat.' It was incredibly moving." Not all visitors to Los Angeles Jewish Health are part of the under-18 set. The organization's own board chair, Andrew Berman, has launched a weekly program called the Men's Club—a discussion group that enables him to spend time with, and get to know, residents of the skilled nursing facility on Los Angeles Jewish Health's Grancell Village campus. "We talk about a range of subjects, from food to politics to cars. Everyone gets to share their different perspectives, which is so healthy and energizing and therapeutic," Andy says. "It's also really gratifying for me because I learn so much from these guys. I'm just thrilled to be able to do it." Building on our vision of enriching our residents each day, the staff at Los Angeles Jewish Health is committed to ramping up intergenerational programming even more in the near future. "We're doing everything we can to bring enrichment to the lives of our residents," Stacy says. "This is one of the things that differentiates us from every other facility in Los Angeles—we've taken it to a higher level." Reaching that "higher level" has been made possible through gifts from donors and foundations such as the Steven Ohren Foundation, which helps fund the music therapy program and certified therapy dog program at Los Angeles Jewish Health. "People in our community recognize the importance of intergenerational programming and want to contribute to it," says Corey Slavin, senior vice president of the Los Angeles Jewish Health Foundation. "We are grateful for our donors' partnership—and, of course, additional support is always welcome."
A Prescription for Senior Health
On the national landscape of senior care facilities, Los Angeles Jewish Health stands apart. It distinguishes itself on multiple levels: through the quality of its care, the breadth and depth of its expertise, and the warmth and compassion of its dedicated staff. There is also another key differentiator: Unlike most of its peer institutions, Los Angeles Jewish Health has a full-service, on-site pharmacy, raising the bar on excellence in senior health across our community. Located in the Joyce Eisenberg Keefer (JEK) Medical Center on Los Angeles Jewish Health's Grancell Village campus, the pharmacy was licensed in 2007 and can dispense medication to residents in JEK's skilled nursing facility, as well as to individuals in the Auerbach Geriatric Psychiatry Unit (AGPU). Pharmacy director Aida Oganesyan oversees one other pharmacist and four pharmacy technicians, as well as a pharmacy resident in conjunction with Western University of Health Sciences College of Pharmacy (WesternU). "We're a devoted team, and we take pride in our commitment to going above and beyond to meet a broad range of residents' needs," Aida says. "We make it our goal to get to know our patients so we can be active partners in their care." Value of care is a major priority for Aida and her colleagues. "It's something we really emphasize: developing good relationships with providers (whether they're primary care, nurse practitioners, or nurses) and learning the backgrounds of our patients to ensure we're providing the same quality of care we would give our own loved ones," she says. As part of their effort to understand Los Angeles Jewish Health residents' needs, the pharmacy team often interacts with patients and their families. "We do comprehensive medication reviews with residents; we talk to family members if they have questions about residents' medications; and we interact with seniors in the AGPU," Aida says. "We all work collaboratively to advance Los Angeles Jewish Health's signature focus on patient-centered care." This high level of personal attention is a key point of distinction between Los Angeles Jewish Health and other senior care organizations. "Most skilled nursing facilities solely rely on a contracted pharmacist who reviews the residents' medications monthly. At Los Angeles Jewish Health, our pharmacists and pharmacy technicians monitor our residents' medications daily," says Chief Medical Officer Noah Marco, MD. "Aida and her team help our physicians prescribe the right medication, at the right dose, at the right time—all the time." The AHSP-accredited pharmacy residency program is another unique feature of Los Angeles Jewish Health's pharmacy services. "Each year, we precept a yearlong pharmacy resident through our collaboration with WesternU for a year of hands-on learning and mentoring, and they get licensed during their time with us," Aida says. "We're proud to help nurture the next generation of pharmacists." Aida, who became the interim director of pharmacy in 2020 and then took the position permanently in 2021, served as Los Angeles Jewish Health's first pharmacy resident in 2013. "Los Angeles Jewish Health has been my home since the very beginning of my career, and I can say with absolute certainty that this place is truly exceptional," she says. In addition to its role as a training ground for young pharmacy talent, Los Angeles Jewish Health is also a launching pad for innovative initiatives that are advancing the field of pharmacy writ large. "We've developed an antibiotic stewardship program with our providers, and we have a pharmacist-led hypertension management program," Aida says. "Now, we're developing a transitions of care program with the Taper building, where we review medications for short-term rehab patients." These innovations, in conjunction with published research conducted by Los Angeles Jewish Health pharmacists, are expanding the tools pharmacists can use to increase the health and wellness of seniors both locally and nationwide. The bottom line, according to Dr. Marco? "Our pharmacists are making the lives of our residents better and improving outcomes for countless older adults around the country," he says.
Decades-Long Resident and Volunteer Dorothy Scott: In Memoriam
There is something special about each and every resident of Los Angeles Jewish Health, and Dorothy Scott was no exception. Her daughter, Mary Jane Dante, attributes Dorothy's impact (at Los Angeles Jewish Health and in the wider world) to natural charisma. "My mom was gifted," she says. "She could walk into a room, learn people's names, and retain the information; by the time she would leave, she would have developed a rapport with everybody there. She was truly the 'hostess with the mostest'—congenial, funny and absolutely lovely in every way." Dorothy, incredibly, lived at Los Angeles Jewish Health for nearly three decades before her recent passing this March at 100 years old. She left an amazing impression wherever she went. As a young woman, she parlayed her natural beauty into a modeling career. She loved to sing, dance, and entertain and would perform for the United Service Organizations (USO), often opening for Frank Sinatra. In Los Angeles, Ol' Blue Eyes was a regular part of Dorothy's social circle: She and her beloved husband, Mark—a sportscaster for the PCL Hollywood Stars baseball team and one of the originators and host of TV's "Homerun Derby" – regularly spent time with the Sinatras, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, and other members of the Rat Pack. "My parents made an incredibly dashing, handsome couple, and they fit right in with Hollywood's in-crowd," Mary Jane says. Mark died in 1960 at the age of 45, leaving Dorothy to raise their two young children on her own. Hollywood glamour receded into the distance as she went back to work full-time, earning a living with fashion-related jobs in retail. "Mom never returned to acting or dancing after Dad was gone; she felt she had to be serious and support us kids. She was so dedicated to us—she wanted us to be of good character and to be happy and successful, and she did everything she could to make that happen," Mary Jane says. Dorothy never remarried, and following the Northridge earthquake in 1994—after 34 years of "flying solo"— she was tired of living on her own. "Mom was only 72, and she was incredibly healthy, but she wanted to be part of a community, and she chose Los Angeles Jewish Health," Mary Jane says. "My Aunt Estelle was living there, and Mom went to visit all the time, so she already felt comfortable and knew it was the right place for her." Once she moved in, she never looked back. "Mom made a life at Los Angeles Jewish Health—she didn't expect to be waited on," Mary Jane says. "She immediately started volunteering in Arts & Crafts; she delivered the mail; she would take prospective families on tours of Eisenberg Village, where she initially lived." She also completed coursework to become a para-chaplain, helping to meet the spiritual needs of her fellow residents and patients at Encino Hospital. Working in the synagogue at Los Angeles Jewish Health was very important to her, as well. "Dorothy was integral to our religious life here," says Rabbi Ron Goldberg, rabbi of Los Angeles Jewish Health's Eisenberg Village campus. "Her work was valued and appreciated, and her fellow residents adored her. She was very much a presence at Los Angeles Jewish Health." In recognition of her many contributions to community, Dorothy was honored in 2006 by the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office with its LA Pearls Senior Citizens of the Year Award. She also received many awards such as a certificate of appreciation from UCLA School of Medicine for her participation in their Multicampus Program for Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology, and recognition for completing the training program for Los Angeles Jewish Health Hospice Services. At Los Angeles Jewish Health, Dorothy was honored as "Resident of the Year," and she earned accolades for her musical achievement. In addition, she received a special certificate thanking her for "the time, effort, and love" she brought to every endeavor. "Mom channeled her passion into service, and she gave of herself for 20 years, until it was time to have some of that love returned," Mary Jane says. During her mid 90s, Dorothy's mind remained sharp, but her body began to slow—and as she accessed more of Los Angeles Jewish Health's services, the staff treated her like royalty. "They took care of her like she was the queen of England," Mary Jane says. "She wouldn't have lived till 100 if she hadn't had the love and support of the staff, the nurses, and all the other people at Los Angeles Jewish Health. There simply is no better care." After a century of living, Dorothy was ready to rest. "Her faculties were still amazing for that age, and she didn't suffer, which makes me eternally grateful," Mary Jane says. "As hard as it is not to have her here anymore, she had a very full life, and I'm thankful to Los Angeles Jewish Health for enabling her to make the most of every day."
Purim Brings Joy to Los Angeles Jewish Health
Around the world, Purim is a joyous holiday that marks the survival of ancient Persia's Jewish community against long odds. At Los Angeles Jewish Health, the celebration is especially festive—with staff and volunteers working hard to make it special for all residents. On Purim, Jews read from the megillah to retell the story of Esther, the biblical heroine who risks her life to save the Jewish people from annihilation. Her husband, King Ahasuerus, is served by a scheming vizier named Haman who, fueled by a personal vendetta, hatches a plot to kill all of the kingdom's Jews. When Esther reveals herself as a Jew to the king, he upends Haman's plan and instead has Haman hanged on the very gallows the evil advisor had built for the Jews. Across Los Angeles Jewish Health campuses, residents and staff came together for a glorious day of exuberant celebration. At Grancell Village, an Orthodox rabbi dressed as a cowboy read the megillah while residents used graggers (noisemakers) and booed every time Haman's name appeared in the narrative. As part of the celebration, Los Angeles Jewish Health staff dressed in costume and performed a Purim spiel, or skit, as residents watched on with delight. "What's so wonderful about Purim at Los Angeles Jewish Health is that all of our staff, across diverse departments, participate to bring joy to our residents," says Chief Mission Officer Rabbi Karen Bender, who dressed as Haman for the spiel. "Our tradition says that, when we enter the month of Adar on the Jewish calendar [the month during which Purim falls every year], we need to spread as much joy as possible for the entire month. So, leading up to the holiday, I came to campus dressed as a penguin, a banana, and a hamantaschen [a triangular holiday cookie in the shape of Haman's hat]. One day, I wore a blue top hat and bow tie to bring levity so residents would feel the joy of this time of year." Corey Slavin, senior vice president of the Los Angeles Jewish Health Foundation, dressed up as Mordechai (Esther's uncle) in the spiel. For her, participating in the Purim festivities is particularly meaningful. "To play a role in celebrating a Jewish holiday that is focused on bringing fun and merriment to residents is amazing because I get to be part of the very community I'm raising money to help,"she says. "Our seniors, with their wisdom and insight, give us so much; I'm thrilled to give back to them. It's exactly why I come to work every day." In the afternoon, a nursery school class came to campus; dressed in costume, the children put on a dance and then handed residents masks they could wear themselves. "The kids brought a whole other kind of incredible energy,"Rabbi Bender says. "After they gave out the masks, I distributed mustaches to any residents who wanted to stick them on!" Staff in costume also paraded across Grancell Village to make sure they brought the celebration to every corner of campus. "It was terrific because, if you couldn't come to Purim—if you were in rehab, for example, or just got out of a procedure—we brought Purim to you. And the staff had a blast,"Rabbi Bender says. At Eisenberg Village, Rabbi Ron Goldberg recruited residents to read the Purim tale to the larger community. "We read it mostly in English on our campus, which gave our residents a chance to understand the story. In addition, we had popular musician Cindy Paley lead us in song, which added a lot to the joyful experience,"Rabbi Ron says. "After so many years of COVID, people were really excited to be part of it all." Amidst the festivities, Rabbi Ron also led residents in an eternal Purim debate. "We had heated discussions about the best flavor of hamantaschen,"he laughs. "My two favorites are cherry and poppyseed, but I think the best flavor is whichever one you happen to have in your hand."
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.