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

Apr 2

My Mission to Israel

by Rabbi Ronald Goldberg This story is a first-person account by Rabbi Ronald Goldberg, of our Eisenberg Village Campus of Los Angeles Jewish Health, regarding his recent trip to Israel. As has been the case for all of us, the devastating October 7th attack by Hamas on Israel, and the suffering and struggles of our brethren there, are heavy on my heart. From being a non-citizen volunteer in the Israel Defense Forces (צה”ל-TZHAL-IDF), to marrying a wonderful Israeli woman, to my year of rabbinic studies in Jerusalem, Israel has always been in my heart and thoughts and prayers. When the opportunity arose in early December 2023 to take part in a volunteer mission to Israel, I didn’t walk – I ran to sign up, with my wife’s blessing. We both knew the work would be hard and emotional. Going into the program, the IDF required a signed waiver stating that I knew I was entering a closed military zone with active conflict and that the army could not be responsible for my safety. Without hesitation, I signed on the dotted line. The mission took me to the region of Israel known as the Gaza Envelope, so called because it was in range of attack from Gaza. There I was blessed to do a variety of tasks. Some were mundane, like harvesting oranges on a kibbutz ravaged by the October 7th attack. Others were more emotional, such as working in an army rest camp just outside of Gaza and interacting as rabbi with soldiers fresh out of the territory. I gave them space to share their fears and hopes, I served them sandwiches and beverages, and I blessed them. At Sheba Hospital-Tel HaShomer, I did rotations with grievously wounded soldiers, hearing their stories, helping them face their fears, and blessing them and their loved ones. In programs at Fountainview, I’ve described all these things in detail. I’m also always happy to discuss them again in person. But a message I want to share today here is about a slogan you see all over Israel – on bus benches, on the sides of buildings, and on the lower corner of TV screens during broadcasts. The message is ביחד ננצח : Together we will triumph. This is the overwhelming feeling you get all over Israel. Not despair or defeat, but a sense of everyone being all together – a sense that, as one, the nation will succeed in its endeavor to keep its citizens safe. That, despite the efforts of those who murder young people at a music festival, Israel will live, Israel will prosper, and yes, Israel will dance and sing again. It’s not about triumph in battle, it’s about showing that evil will never drown out joy, never drown out love and caring, and that, just as we danced and sang on October 6th, so, too, we will dance and sing again today, tomorrow, and indeed עד עולם –forever. This was my takeaway from the trip: We should never ever forget that עם ישראל חי – the People Israel yet live. Rabbi Ronald Goldberg Volunteer Mission to Israel
Read More
Apr 2

Purim is Celebrated at Los Angeles Jewish Health

Since the time of Purim last year, many disturbing worldwide events have occurred causing pain, anguish and heartache. We began the year in disbelief that a war continued to rage across Ukraine. While we prayed for a peaceful resolution, the unimaginable occurred as the entire world witnessed an innocent music festival in Israel turned into the site of a deadly and evil atrocity. During the following days, through the media we saw men, women and children ripped from the safety of their homes and thrust into a darkness that continues with no certain end ahead. During times that feel so dire, why do we insist on carrying on with a lighthearted festival where people dress up in silly costumes, sing funny songs, and act out the reading of the Megillah, often adapting it to the tune of more contemporary music? The answer is because it is more important than ever to carry out these customs, indeed to celebrate them! We must first understand that the meaning of Purim is to celebrate the fact that Jews overcame the possibility of being destroyed at the hands of an evil entity. That by being strong and resolute no matter what, by standing up for what they believed, together they conquered evil so that there could be peace for all. Then, we see that there has perhaps never been a year more important to pray, hope and speak up, but also to celebrate what it means to be Jewish and to stand together in the unwavering belief that once again, we can overcome for a brighter tomorrow. Resident Purim spiel at Joyce Eisenberg-Keefer Medical Center Newman Building reads from the Book of Ester Goldenberg-Ziman resident dressed up for Purim Purim party at Fountainview at Eisenberg Village Purim reading at Fountainview Gonda Westside Annual staff Purim spiel performed for Grancell Village
Read More
Mar 22

Eisenhower Health Working with Los Angeles Jewish Health to Offer Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) for Coachella Valley Seniors

Rancho Mirage, CA (March 22, 2024) — Made possible through generous philanthropic support, Eisenhower Health has purchased the Neuro Vitality Center (formerly the Stroke Recovery Center). In partnership with Los Angeles Jewish Health (LAJHealth), Eisenhower will provide a Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) at the former Neuro Vitality Center location. After a renovation, the site is expected to open with a new name and focus in the next 12 to 18 months. “Eisenhower Health is committed to addressing the long-term health care needs for low-income seniors through this new Center and PACE program,” says Martin Massiello, President and Chief Executive Officer, Eisenhower Health. “We are incredibly grateful for the support of our generous donors which will aid in serving the area’s most vulnerable residents.” “Having served neurologically challenged and chronically ill members of the community for over 46 years, the Neuro Vitality Center (Stroke Recovery Center) is pleased to turn the reins over to Eisenhower to expand treatment to this vulnerable population in need,” says Beverly Greer, Chief Executive Officer, Neuro Vitality Center. “Increased access and more services will only serve to enhance the quality of life and health for patients well into the future.” “Los Angeles Jewish Health is delighted to partner with Eisenhower Health in bringing our world-class PACE program, entitled the Brandman Centers for Senior Care, to residents of the Coachella Valley,” remarks Dale Surowitz, President and Chief Executive Officer, Los Angeles Jewish Health. “We look forward to working with the organization to meet the needs of the community’s high-risk seniors, while helping to improve the health of the broader community.” PACE provides not only medical care and nutritious meals but also fun activities, exercise, parties, and the opportunity to socialize and make friends, erasing the isolation so common among many of today’s seniors. LAJHealth’s PACE receives approval and oversight from both the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the California Department of Health Care Services’ (CDHCS) Integrated Systems of Care Division. Los Angeles Jewish Health’s PACE is a member of the National PACE Association and CalPACE. Founded in 1912, Los Angeles Jewish Health is the largest non-profit, single-source provider of comprehensive senior healthcare services in the Los Angeles area, serving nearly 4,000 people each year. At Los Angeles Jewish Health, thousands of seniors benefit from community-based and in-residence care and services. Programs include independent living; assisted living; senior behavioral health; short-term rehabilitation; skilled nursing; PACE; hospice and palliative care; and geriatric health and memory care. Los Angeles Jewish Health is also home to the Annenberg School of Nursing. Eisenhower Health is a not-for-profit, comprehensive health care institution that includes the 437-bed Eisenhower Hospital, the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center at Eisenhower and the Annenberg Center for Health Sciences at Eisenhower. Eisenhower is renowned for its Centers of Excellence in Orthopedics, Cardiovascular, Neuroscience and Oncology. Situated on 106 acres in Rancho Mirage, and with outpatient clinics across the valley, Eisenhower Health has provided a full range of quality medical and educational services for more than 50 years for residents and visitors to the greater Coachella Valley. Eisenhower has twice earned ANCC Magnet Recognition® for professionalism in nursing and excellence in patient care. The first accredited teaching hospital in the valley, Eisenhower trains physician residents in Internal Medicine, Family Medicine and Emergency Medicine and offers several fellowships. For more information, visit or follow Eisenhower Health on social media.
Read More