The Promise of Passover at the Los Angeles Jewish Home
Connections to Care Mobile Hero
Home / News & Events / Newsletter / The Promise of Passover at the Los Angeles Jewish Home

The Promise of Passover at the Los Angeles Jewish Home

Apr 5, 2021

Passover is always one of the most important holidays on the Jewish calendar, and for seniors at the Los Angeles Jewish Home, this year's celebration was something extra special.

"During Pesach, we tell the story of our People's liberation from slavery in Mitzrayim [Egypt]. This year, it coincided with the anniversary of our own journey through COVID-19," says Skirball Director of Jewish Life Rabbi Karen Bender. "Just like Mitzrayim, COVID has been a dangerous and confining place. And though we're still not quite through the pandemic, things are starting to open back up, the same way the waters parted for the Jewish people at the Red Sea."

This Passover was a particularly meaningful time for Jewish Home residents, who endured long months of uncertainty as the coronavirus swept across Southern California. Here, Rabbi Bender points out another parallel between the Exodus and modern day.

"Ultimately, Passover is a joyful holiday, and right now at the Jewish Home, we are also feeling a sense of real joy," she says. "Our ancestors knew what it meant, after great struggle, to strive toward the Promised Land. Now, we too, can finally see it emerging in the distance. That is cause for optimism and celebration."

To mark the occasion, Rabbi Bender spent the holiday doing something she had not been able to do for 12 months: gathering in person with Jewish Home residents—in small groups—to teach about Passover and to give the Home's seniors a chance to reconnect.

"To be extra cautious, we kept residents in their cohorts and I visited each floor of our buildings to help people study the Haggadah," she says. "It's such a rich and interesting text— you could easily teach a four-semester course at the college level about it!"

The experience, she says, was incredibly moving. "We began class by saying a Shecheheyanu prayer, expressing our thanks for being together again," she says. "Seeing people's relief and excitement was just amazing."

Rabbi Bender and her colleague, Eisenberg Village Campus Rabbi Ronald Goldberg, helped residents observe the holiday in other ways, as well. Since large group gatherings have not yet been deemed safe, the rabbis broadcast a seder, the traditional Passover meal, on the Jewish Home's closed circuit TV station.

"We made sure there was a seder plate in every hand, which meant distributing nearly 1,000 of them to our residents," Rabbi Bender says. "As they watched the seder, they were able to participate along with us—dipping parsley in salt water, making the Hillel sandwich and singing the Four Questions."

In preparation for the holiday, Rabbi Bender also led other Passover rituals. "This year, I was able to burn the hametz [leavened products], which to me was another sign that we're starting to return to normal," she says. "In addition, we had a massive cleaning of the Jewish Home's kitchens. Our mashgiach [an authority who supervises the kashrut status of a kosher establishment] says no other organization he's ever worked with is as skilled or dedicated to koshering for Pesach. It's an amazing sight to see."

After such a challenging year, Rabbi Bender was thrilled to see life at the Jewish Home start to resume a more regular pace. "We're going from holy to holy—transitioning from the holiness of protecting our residents and making the sacrifices needed to stay safe, to the holiness of taking tiny steps toward leading a more normal life," she says. "To see residents once again greet each other in person and wish one another a 'Zissen Pesach,' a sweet Passover, was an unbelievably heartwarming experience."

Sign up for the LAJHealth Newsletter, Connections.

Recent Articles

Jul 5

With 100 Years of Excellence in Senior Care, Los Angeles Jewish Home Transitions to New Name More Reflective of the Broad Spectrum of Senior Care Offerings Available to All

With a new name and continued focus on meeting diverse senior needs, Los Angeles Jewish Health meets seniors where they are in life, providing a customized senior experience. (RESEDA, CA – July 5, 2022) As it continues to build on more than a century of providing an array of high-quality residential living options and care for Southern California seniors, the Los Angeles Jewish Home is unveiling a new name: Los Angeles Jewish Health. The updated identity reflects Los Angeles Jewish Health’s commitment to offering area seniors a full complement of exceptional programs and services and a comprehensive continuum of care, whether that care is at home, in the community, or on one of their beautiful campus settings. “Over the years, as the needs of our community members have expanded and changed, we have evolved, too, expanding the scope of healthcare services we provide. It is now the right time to transition to a name more reflective of the vast array of senior care services and living options available through Los Angeles Jewish Health, while still remaining true to our mission and Jewish values,” said Dale Surowitz, CEO-president of Los Angeles Jewish Health. Los Angeles Jewish Health is a national leader in senior health and wellness. Established in 1912 in East Los Angeles to assist Jewish men seeking shelter, today Los Angeles Jewish Health cares for a diverse group of thousands of seniors each year through independent housing, adult day care, skilled nursing facilities, short-term rehabilitation, hospice services, and more. What began as a modest residential facility at the turn of the previous century has grown into a leading senior health system, providing for a rapidly growing elder population with a broad range of geriatric and specialty healthcare needs. By 2030, one in five Americans are projected to be older individuals. Seniors 85 and older are the fastest growing segment of this population and are expected to increase fivefold over the next 30 years, from four million in 2000 to 21 million in 2050.“Shifting demographics demand that we sharpen our focus to ensure we are an available senior care resource for every member of our community,” Surowitz said. “As we have for more than 100 years, we look forward to contributing Los Angeles Jewish Health’s extensive experience and medical expertise toward better health outcomes for all seniors.” About Los Angeles Jewish Health: Founded in 1912, and formerly known as the Los Angeles Jewish Home, the non-profit Los Angeles Jewish Health is the largest single-source provider of comprehensive senior healthcare services in the Los Angeles area, serving nearly 4,000 people each year. Thousands of seniors benefit from the Los Angeles Jewish Health’s community-based and in-residence care and services. Programs include: PACE (A Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly); hospice; palliative medicine; community clinics; short-term rehabilitation; and acute psychiatric care. Four campuses (Eisenberg Village, Grancell Village, Fountainview at Eisenberg Village, and Fountainview at Gonda Westside) serve seniors with options for independent living, residential care, skilled nursing care, short-term rehabilitation, and Alzheimer’s disease and memory care. In addition, Los Angeles Jewish Health is home to the Annenberg School of Nursing.
Read More
Mar 15

Los Angeles Jewish Health Resident and Holocaust Survivor Celebrates Bat Mitzvah, and 92nd Birthday, during 100th Anniversary of the first American to celebrate a Bat Mitzvah

(RESEDA, CA – March 15, 2022) History will be made at the Los Angeles Jewish Home, Thursday, March 18 as beloved resident and Holocaust survivor Frieda Thompson turns 92 on the same day she will be called to Torah for her Bat Mitzvah. This date also marks the 100th anniversary of when Judith Kaplan, at age twelve, became the first American girl to celebrate a Bat Mitzvah on March 18, 1922. Frieda Thompson, 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 Torah for his 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, with family flying in for the big day, Frieda will celebrate her Bat Mitzvah during the weekly Shabbat Eve. Service, in the Weinberg Courtyard of the Jewish Home, in front of loving family, caring staff, and dozens of fellow Jewish Home residents. When asked what this day means to her, Frieda offers, “Moses was loyal to his family and to the Jewish people. I too have always felt loyal to my family and the Jewish People.” In commenting on the significance of this lifetime milestone Rabbi Karen Bender 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.” Note: Media interested in attending the Service/Bat Mitzvah must be fully vaccinated/boosted/masked – and must RSVP in advance.
Read More
Mar 12

Los Angeles Jewish Home Accepts New Resident Applications

After pandemic-related pause, premier senior living facility reopens its doors (RESEDA, CA – March 12, 2021) The Los Angeles Jewish Home announced it is accepting applications for new residents, as well as participants in its community-based programs, after an extended pause in admissions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The reopening coincides with the one-year anniversary of the nationwide shutdown resulting from the coronavirus. Dale Surowitz, CEO-president of the Jewish Home, says welcoming new seniors will enable the organization to continue its century-long tradition of providing for the region’s frail elderly. "Seniors in Los Angeles depend on us for care. During COVID, ensuring their continued health and safety meant refraining from bringing people in. But now that 99 percent of our residents (as well as the large majority of our staff) has been fully vaccinated, we’re relaunching the admissions process so we can serve even more members of the community." The Home has immediate openings for seniors who need hands-on skilled nursing assistance. "The Jewish Home typically has wait lists for available spaces in our skilled nursing facility; it’s uncommon to have availability as we currently do," Surowitz says. "This represents a rare opportunity for people to get into the Home now, before we reach capacity, which will happen quickly." With the easing of the pandemic, the Jewish Home is also welcoming seniors to its Brandman Centers for Senior Care, a Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). Through the program, residents and seniors who live on their own receive medical services, physical therapy, social services, and nutritional counseling, as well as exceptional adult day healthcare that engages them intellectually, physically, and socially. Applicants to the Jewish Home have access to a broad range of programs and services beyond PACE and skilled nursing. From short-term rehab to hospice, independent living, home health, and memory care, the Jewish Home provides support to residents at their varying levels of need. Through the Jewish Home, seniors are also eligible for the organization’s new Brandman Health Plan. Designed for the chronic patient with special needs, the plan offers benefits to anyone in Los Angeles County who is Medicare-eligible and has diabetes, chronic heart failure, cardiovascular disorders, or dementia. Seniors and their families can reach out to the Jewish Home for more information about current openings and availability. "We’re here for new applicants, whoever they are and whatever their needs," Surowitz says. "We look forward to learning how we can help."
Read More