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 President Dale 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!"
It’s An Ace for Golf Tournaments at the Los Angeles Jewish Home
The Executives Golf Co-Chair David Feldman and son Hunter Feldman This year, two of the Home's esteemed support groups—The Guardians and The Executives—held their annual golf tournaments with great success. In both cases, participants made significant contributions to supporting the health and welfare of our beloved seniors at the Jewish Home. The COVID-19 pandemic had put a necessary hold on in-person gatherings for more than a year. Fortunately, at the Los Angeles Jewish Home, a number of events are back and better than ever. The Guardians Golf Open XXII was held in October at Los Robles Country Club in Thousand Oaks. It was the group's first large-scale event since the onset of COVID-19, and golfers returned in droves. Joyce Eisenberg-Keefer and Mel Keefer were the event's title tournament sponsors. One hundred eight players—even more than pre-pandemic in 2019—joined together to raise nearly $121,000 for the Jewish Home. Michael Beck and Sean Lahijani served as event co-chairs. "There were a lot of us working together to find sponsors, recruit players, and make sure people had the event on their radar," Sean says. "It ended up going really well, and the attendees had a blast!" For Sean, a member of The Guardians since 2017, the tournament was a perfect example of what keeps him engaged in the group's activities. "It's the combination of the cause and the camaraderie," he says. "The people are great, and I love chatting and networking. It's fantastic to be able to build relationships and make friends at the same time I'm supporting an important mission." The Guardians Young Men’s Division Co-Chair Jesse McKenzie and Jewish Home CEO and President Dale Surowitz Members of The Executives inspire similar enthusiasm, and they came out in force for this year's 18th Executives Annual Golf Classic in August. Held at the North Ranch Country Club in Westlake Village, the event attracted 159 golfers and raised $251,000 for the Jewish Home. The event's title tournament sponsors were Taffy and Barry Berger/Accredited Home Care. "I've helped lead this event for the last eight years, and we always outdo ourselves, but this year saw the largest increase ever," says co-chair David Feldman, who planned the tournament along with co-chair Michael Resnik. "I have such compassion for the elderly. By supporting the Jewish Home, I feel like I'm paying it forward to help those in need." To learn more about The Guardians, contact Aaron Levinson at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about The Executives, contact Cheryl Kater at email@example.com.
High-Profile Healthcare Organization Honors Medical Leadership
The Los Angeles Jewish Home is extremely fortunate to count among its staff some of the finest physicians and medical providers working in senior care today. Foremost among them is Noah Marco, MD, who serves as chief medical officer for the Home and the Brandman Health Plan, executive director of the Brandman Research Institute, and medical director of Los Angeles Jewish Health Medical Associates, the Home's independent physician association. This fall, Dr. Marco's expertise and impact were recognized with the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine's prestigious 2021 CALTCM Leadership Award, celebrating his exemplary leadership and dedication in post-acute and long-term care. The award was presented virtually during CALTCM's Summit for Excellence on October 9. "I was honored to receive this award and am gratified I have been able to play a role in making a difference at the Jewish Home and beyond," Dr. Marco says. "It's a team effort at the Jewish Home, and I am particularly grateful to my colleagues for their skill, passion, and support." Dr. Marco has built a track record of excellence spanning decades, and always with a focus on strengthening health and welfare across our community. With more than 30 years of experience as a physician, he is also a prolific writer and sought-after speaker who has presented numerous lectures and led workshops on a broad range of topics including elder care, clinician-patient communication, and physician training. His podcast "Who Cares? The Future of Home Care" is available on iTunes. Prior to joining the Jewish Home, Dr. Marco held positions as vice president of medical affairs at Northridge Hospital Medical Center and head of the medical staff for the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Woodland Hills. He also worked in private practice in conjunction with an appointment as a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the USC School of Medicine. Mostly recently, Dr. Marco has been instrumental in leading the Jewish Home's response to the pandemic. His efforts were acknowledged by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who praised Dr. Marco's determination and effectiveness in setting standards for COVID-19 testing in nursing facilities. "I am proud of the work we have done, during this pandemic and throughout my time at the Jewish Home, to keep our seniors safe and healthy," he says. "Above all else, the award from CALTCM signifies that this work has been successful and that seniors at the Home can continue to rely on us for exceptional quality care."
Los Angeles Jewish Home Celebrates Centenarian Seniors
Fountainview at Eisenberg Village resident Dorothy Feldman, 106 Each autumn, communities across the country mark National Centenarians Day, a celebration honoring seniors who have reached their 100th birthday or beyond. Here at the Los Angeles Jewish Home, we have a large number of centenarians who continue to inspire us with their intelligence and spirit. Their longevity is an inspiration to their peers at the Jewish Home and, indeed, to everyone they meet. Eisenberg Village resident David Konigsberg is one of the Home's centenarians. A World War II hero who flew 65 missions and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross medal, David has spent a lifetime making the world a better place. "Throughout the course of his 10-plus decades," says close friend Bob Gray, "David has been a resource for those he loved—someone who constantly gave back to his community." "At a difficult time for me, he helped me straighten out a few things in my life, and he was instrumental in my getting married and having kids," Bob recalls. "I'll never forget a letter he once wrote me, in which he said, 'The best way you can help yourself is to help somebody else.' That's David—just an incredibly caring and phenomenal guy." Bob wasn't the only beneficiary of David's nurturing and compassion. "My dad died when I was 22; Uncle Davey walked me down the aisle at my wedding. He was one of 11 children, but I chose him from among all my uncles to be my surrogate father, and to be the grandfather to my son," says his niece, April Wayland. "He had a way of making everybody feel good, even when things weren't easy for him. To capture the kind of optimism he projected, all you need to know is that he had seven dogs over the course of his lifetime, all of them were named 'Lucky.'" After so many years of caring for others, David is now able to depend upon the expert care provided by the Jewish Home. "The quality of care at the Home is truly excellent," April says. "I'm so impressed by how well they know him and how carefully they monitor him. It's especially impressive in light of how little money the Jewish Home gets, since most of its residents rely on government benefits. The Home gives much more than it receives, yet its staff still take such amazing care of the seniors in their charge." Jeanette Crane is another of the Home's Eisenberg Village-based centenarian seniors. At 101, she still possesses the resilient spirit that has kept her going for more than a century. Her son Michael says his mom has always been a trailblazer of sorts. "She's very independent. She and my dad divorced in the early 1970s, when that wasn't done much, and she went to work, first as an executive secretary at the Century Plaza Hotel, and then as part of my brother Jeffrey's company for many years," he remembers. When she arrived at the Jewish Home about a decade ago, Jeanette quickly embraced the advantages of residential living. "She loved movies and theater and was a fierce bridge and Scrabble competitor, and the Home provided her with a lot of fantastic outlets for those activities," Michael says. For Jeanette, adjusting to life at the Home was easy. "Mom is a social person, and she enjoyed the camaraderie of the dining room," Michael continues. "She also found a group of like-minded people who shared her same interests. Overall, she felt like the Jewish Home was a great fit." Now, she uses a wheelchair to help her get around, but otherwise remains in good health—a fact she attributes, in part, to the Jewish Home. "I like what they do here, the way they treat people," Jeanette says. "They make us feel good." At 106, Fountainview at Eisenberg Village resident Dorothy Feldman is still sharp—the result, she says, of keeping her mind fit by playing bridge and reading. She also enjoys playing poker and watching movies in the theater. For Dorothy, recreation at the Home is an enjoyable way to spend her days, and a luxury she never would have imagined growing up during the Depression. "We didn't have much, so I had to find work right after high school," she recalls. "As a teenager, I took a job as a beautician. Many years later, after my husband passed away, I decided to go back to work, and I took an aptitude test that told me I'd make a good dental assistant. I wasn't convinced I could do it, but I gave it a try, and ultimately ended up having a career in dental surgery." A native of Minneapolis, Dorothy spent many years living in Thousand Oaks before relocating to Fountainview to be closer to her two sons, Ira and Bruce. Fellow Fountainview resident Lillian Baker, 100, moved to the Jewish Home with her husband, Eli, from Woodland Hills in 2012. It was, she says, "the perfect solution because we had stopped driving and felt like we would be taken care of here." Eli passed away at the age of 96 in 2017, leaving Lillian even more grateful than ever for her perch at Fountainview. "The people are what sold us on this place, and they're my family now," she says. Lilian, who was a dancer in her youth, still considers herself to be "perky." In her free time, she loves to write fiction, read, and watch films. "I'm so grateful for what I have at the Jewish Home," she says. "We should all be so lucky."