What Makes Meals Marvelous at the Los Angeles Jewish Home

Connections to Care Mobile Hero
Home / News & Events / Newsletter / What Makes Meals Marvelous at the Los Angeles Jewish Home

What Makes Meals Marvelous at the Los Angeles Jewish Home

May 4, 2022

The Los Angeles Jewish Home sparkles on every level, but one of its crown jewels is the Dietary Department, a collection of remarkable staff members who work tirelessly to keep Jewish Home residents happy, healthy, and able to enjoy some of life's finer pleasures. During holidays and every day, the approximately 60 employees based on the Grancell Village campus and 45 at Eisenberg Village are on their feet—and on their toes—making sure they deliver our seniors the very best cuisine possible.


It is, notes department director Cindy Cordon, a massive and ambitious enterprise. "We serve nearly 500 residents in 12 different locations on two campuses, plus we have Gerald's Deli and Café Rendezvous (the on-campus, to-go locations at Grancell Village and Eisenberg Village, respectively), and everything—except for blintzes and pies—are made from scratch," she says. "We have cooks and sous chefs and bakers who make fresh desserts for residents on both campuses, as well as challah every Friday. We have food preparers, dessert preparers, platers, and even someone dedicated to making purees for the seniors. It takes a lot of love and care to keep it all going!"


That love, says Chief Mission Officer Rabbi Karen Bender, is always on full display. "You just have to taste the food and look at the presentation to know the dietary staff does everything with such wonderful intention. The kitchen is the heart of any Jewish home, and that's also true at our Jewish Home. The people who cook and serve food to our residents are so loving in their preparation. As a rabbi, their sincerity, conscientiousness, and care are beautiful to watch."

Cindy, a certified specialist in gerontological nutrition, has been at the Jewish Home for 15 years. As she tells it, success on the job has meant mastering the art of menu planning. "Menu is the center of everything," she says. "It dictates what's required, from food and equipment to quantity and labor. It's also key for resident satisfaction. We have monthly food committees so we can get feedback from residents, and we incorporate as many of their requests as possible. We're honored they've placed their trust in us, and we want to make sure they feel listened to."

Under Cindy's direction, the Jewish Home menu is built on a five-week cycle that rotates seasonally. "We want residents to enjoy a wide variety of tastes, and we are constantly evaluating whether something worked or not," she says. To that end, she is frequently revising meals on the fly. "Out of 14 lunches and dinners, I may end up changing half, based on how people respond. We also send menus to the families of some of our residents, who help us customize meals according to their loved ones' individual needs. In total, we have about 56 customized menus!"

It's a lot to keep track of and gets even more complicated during Jewish holidays like Passover. Although the Jewish Home's kitchens are fully kosher for year-round food preparation, they must undergo a special process to make them kosher l'Pesach (kosher for Passover).

"We kasher the kitchen two days before the first seder. Everything is removed. Then we do a deep clean, from floor to ceiling. At Grancell Village this year, we spent approximately 20 hours on the floor alone! We turn on all the stoves and put everything that holds water on high until it's boiling, and then let it boil for two hours. Then we dip all the silverware in boiling water. After that, we scoop, splash, and pour water on every working surface throughout the kitchen, as well as the deli," Cindy says.


The entire process is supervised by a mashgiach—an authority on maintaining the kashrut status of a kosher establishment. "Our mashgiach says the Jewish Home has the most expert staff at kashering for Passover he's ever worked with, which is high praise," Rabbi Bender says. "They really do an extraordinary job."
It's a job Cindy and her staff are thrilled to do. "The Jewish Home is such a special place," she says. "The residents are so amazing. I've created a lot of meaningful relationships here. And I love serving them! Walking around in the dining room, getting a chance to talk to them, to find out how they are and to hear about their lives—it's a real privilege."



Sign up for the LAJHealth Newsletter, Connections.

Recent Articles

Feb 6

At Los Angeles Jewish Health Love Knows No Bounds

When 94-year-old Jack Schlaifer agreed to officiate at the wedding of his grandniece, Alison, and her fiancé, Daniel, he was building on a family tradition: months earlier, he had performed the marriage ceremony for Alison’s father (his nephew Charles) in the backyard of his Westlake Village home. Jack was honored when Alison asked him to do the honors for her wedding as well. They laid out plans for a similar ceremony, in the same venue, on New Year’s Day—until life got in the way. “In November, I had a fall, and I fractured my L5 [a region between the lumbar and sacral spine in the lower back],” Jack says. “Suddenly, I was living in a rehabilitation facility, and all bets were off. I called Alison and told her, ‘You can’t count on me for the wedding.’ I was sad about it, but what could I do?” Alison knew exactly what he should do: proceed full steam ahead. "She said, “Uncle Jack, I don’t care where you are; I want you to marry us. We’ll come to wherever you are!’” he recalls. “I was incredibly moved.” All that was left was to coordinate with the staff at Los Angeles Jewish Health. LAJH is a place that Jack, a native Angeleno who had raised his family in the Valley, had long known and loved. “I joined The Guardians (a support group of LAJH) in 1980, and when they formed The Executives, I was a founding member and, later, president,” he said. “I served on The Executives’ board for 30 years.” Jack reached out to Los Angeles Jewish Health staff, and everyone enthusiastically leaned in to ensure all details were arranged. On January 1, 2024, in a cozy family room on the Grancell Village campus, Jack gathered together with Alison, Daniel, and an intimate group of family to give the couple his blessing and pronounce them “man and wife.” “It was an amazing wedding, and it brought me a lot of naches [joy],” Jack says, smiling. “After it was over, the family went for sandwiches to Brent’s Deli, which is Alison and Daniel’s favorite place. It was perfect.” Once the ceremony was complete, it was back to the hard work of rehab. Every day Jack has both physical and occupational therapy, and every day he gets a little bit stronger. While the road to recovery is long, he is grateful to be walking it at Los Angeles Jewish Health. “I’m lucky to be here,” he says. “The care is wonderful, and the people are great.”
Read More
Feb 6

Special Intergenerational Program Honors Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Spirit of Coming Together for the Greater Good

Members of the Jewish and African-American communities have long found solidarity in common purpose, with a history of teaming up toward the pursuit of equal rights. As the New Year began, two diverse community groups gathered at Los Angeles Jewish Health to remember the legacy of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. while continuing to build toward a unified future. They literally came together to break bread. In collaboration with Challah and Soul, a program that seeks to educate and unite the Jewish and Black communities, high school students from Adat Ari El congregation traveled to Los Angeles Jewish Health for an adventure in baking and storytelling. During the fascinating intergenerational event, LA Jewish Health residents shared memories of Dr. King as they worked side-by-side with the students to braid loaves of challah. The result: a wonderful afternoon of raising awareness, passing along a beloved Jewish tradition, and fostering strong intergenerational bonds. “The students arrived with smiles and great energy,” says Susan Leitch, community manager and safety officer at Los Angeles Jewish Health and a key organizer of the event. “It was wonderful to see them interact with our seniors.” Created by Shonda Isom Walkowitz, the founder of Bucks Happy Farm in the Lucerne Valley, and Judi Leib, a chef and veteran of the food services industry, Challah and Soul was built on a mutual interest in helping Blacks and Jews rediscover the things that make them natural allies. As challah dough was passed to the assembled residents and students, Judi spoke about the importance of food in uniting diverse people, and Shonda offered her thoughts about the similarities between the Black and Jewish experiences. “This event showcased how much wisdom and perspective LA Jewish Health seniors can offer to the broader community,” Julie Lockman-Gold, special projects coordinator at Los Angeles Jewish Health, says. “Especially during a time of rising anti-Semitism, our residents have a lot to say about inequality, injustice, and racism. Giving them an opportunity to be heard – and for students to learn from their experiences – was truly meaningful.” The event drew a large turnout of residents from Grancell Village’s Mark Taper Building and Joyce Eisenberg-Keefer Medical Center, as well as 20 Adat Eri El students and some of their family members. “Watching them partner to make the challah, you could see the joy on everyone’s faces,” Julie recalls. “When the bread was done baking, the smell was amazing, and people were so excited to dig in!” By the end of the afternoon, the happiness and contentment that filled the room were clear indications of the event’s success. It was a feeling shared by all participants. Julie added, “As the students were leaving, Adat Ari El’s program director, Sara Markus, told me she’s already thinking about doing it again next year!”
Read More
Jan 24

Inaugural Classic & Exotic Car Show

Hirsch Family Campus No charge to supporters of LAJH RSVP Here
Read More