Every Monday, Marty Goldstein, 87, walks from his home on
It’s something he won’t be able to do if and when the JCC moves further west, not that he begrudges the need for the change. Having never driven, he’s no stranger to public transportation either, but buses don’t go that way, he said.
“Seniors have limited places to go. There are a lot of them that can’t drive,” he said. “If they do get out, [
Addressing the need for transportation for seniors is just one piece of what the strategic planning team will be looking at in the months and years ahead. Caring for seniors, as noted in the Jewish Community Strategic Plan approved by the Jewish Federation of the
“To me, finally working on what we’re going to do with our older adults is something that’s really important,” said
According to the plan, the community should expand the availability of formal and informal supportive services to older Jewish people that allow them to maximize their well-being and independence and be connected to Jewish life. This should include seniors “aging in place” and living in residential facilities.
The Beth Tikvah Model
Yes, having a fully supported Jewish residential facility would be ideal. But, it was quickly determined, in a community of this size, it just isn’t feasible in the 21st century.
“The community could not sustain a senior living facility. That’s one of the things that was very difficult to move away from,” said Barry Halper, current Federation president and co-chairman of the Strategic Planning Committee. “It took some time for people to realize there just isn’t the demand that could satisfy the need for an entire facility. Once you make that decision, then you have to look at, OK, there are still seniors that are living in residential facilities, how do you provide a Jewish atmosphere for them?”
The question goes way back. “It started with the first settlers,” said
Meislin succeeded her aunt on an exploratory committee that also included Robert Margolis, z”l; Al Pell, z”l; and Rabbi Allen Juda, thus representing
Some of the committee members had connections to former Pennsylvania Gov. George Leader. “He and his wife, Mary Jane, took a tremendous interest in personalizing a wing when they were building
Sandy Wruble was hired as the personal services manager for the unit. “
Looking back, Wruble is able to view the facility from both a Jewish and a care provider viewpoint. “It was purely skilled nursing, with rehabilitation and activities,” she said. Some of the residents of Beth Tikvah hadn’t kept kosher, but Wruble would tell their adult children, “Yes, but I’ll bet your mother would like a bowl of chicken soup, or a nice brisket with kugel.”
The Beth Tikvah program was subsidized by the Jewish Federation of the
“The assisted living facilities came into being, with the freedom and independence they offer, even though it’s not kosher,” Wruble said.
In the early 21st century, the wing was filled mainly with non-Jewish residents, and the nursing home ended the partnership because the nature of skilled nursing care had changed over the years and because the business model of the facility was updated to meet new market realities.
Jewish Residence Life Today
Although the ending of formal community support was troubling and upsetting for some, there is a legacy that continues today: Leader’s son, G. Michael Leader, is president and CEO of Country Meadows, a senior residential and assisted living facility whose Allentown campus stands out from other Valley facilities in its offerings for Jewish seniors and currently has a critical mass of Jewish residents.
Rabbi Melody Davis of
There’s a monthly Shabbat service led by Monica Lemelman and by Elaine Langer, whose father Al, z”l, was a very long-term and much-loved resident.
“They [also] have a wonderful, special dinner that Susan Wolfson and her husband provide at Pesach, High Holidays, Thanksgiving and maybe Chanukah,”
Cooky Notis from Jewish Family Service visits regularly and offers holiday-related programming; other clergy visit, and so do the youth choir and Jewish youth groups.
“There is a feeling among some residents,” Davis said, “they will go to anything Jewish, not necessarily because they want to, but because it is being provided and they have an obligation to support it because it’s Jewish.”
While few can match Country Meadows’ offerings, Luther Crest holds a seder; Bnai Brith apartments, now with just a handful of Jewish residents, has a monthly Shabbat service.
One idea under consideration is for the Jewish community to find ways to again partner creatively with existing residential facilities and promote them as places to find Jewish life.
Those facilities would ideally need to accommodate the religious, social and dietary needs of their Jewish residents, said Patty Glascom, co-chairwoman of the seniors committee and vice president of Jewish Family Service. They would also need to offer a full range of care, from independent living onward, she said.
“It’s very fragmented now. There are Jewish residents in small numbers in just about every one of the retirement facilities in the area,” Glascom said. “I feel that if there was a central place, the programming could be more in-depth ... more meaningful, more often. That, I think, would be comforting for the residents and their families.”
Aging in Place
There are several ideas on the table about how to help older Jewish adults who want to -- or have to -- remain in their homes.
Setting up a “concierge service,” whereby a single person would be the go-to for the needs of seniors in the Jewish community, is one possibility the strategic planning implementation committee will explore.
”When you’re trying to make these difficult decisions, if you’re going through a channel and a community that is home, I think that tends to dampen a little bit of that anxiety,” said Nan Ronis, who will co-chair the seniors committee with Glascom.
There are, of course, resources that already exist within Jewish Family Service that the committee may look to have strengthened. To add to that, the Jewish Federation is in the process of hiring a part-time staffer to coordinate the planning to address the needs of seniors as laid out in the strategic plan.
For seniors at home, transportation will continue to be a big issue that needs to be addressed.
“In this community, why it’s particularly difficult is because we’re so spread out and people are pretty dependent on cars,” said Debbie Zoller, executive director of Jewish Family Service of the
Providing quality programming for older adults living outside of residential facilities is another facet that the strategic plan urges the community to consider.
In truth, the seniors committee is just beginning to look at the many options available. But the idea is to make strides in this arena as soon as possible.
Success, said Glascom, would be to have facilities identified that could meet the needs of Jewish residents, have a concierge-type service in place, a larger volunteer corps and “provide peace of mind for aging seniors in the Jewish community.”
Interested in serving on the seniors committee? Contact the Federation at 610-821-5500 or email@example.com.
Barry Halper, co-chairman
Mark Scoblionko, co-chairman
Mark L. Goldstein
Robert A. Hammel
Dr. Debbie Kimmel
Rabbi Allen Juda
Dr. Lawrence Levitt
Dr. Alex Rosenau
Dr. Nicole Rosenthal
Mark L. Goldstein
Dr. Nicole Rosenthal
Cantor Kevin Wartell
Dr. Michael Weinstock
Four task forces have been established to address the issues of seniors, education and programming, Jewish education that’s non day school-related and new ways of looking at fundraising.
Are you passionate about one (or more) of these issues?
Contact the Jewish Federation at 610-821-5500 or firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved today.